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Pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of rapacuronium bromide

Lookup NU author(s): Dr William Wight, Dr Peter Wright


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Rapacuronium is an aminosteroidal nondepolarising neuromuscular blocking agent (NMBA). Its neuromuscular blocking effects have a different time course to those of most currently available agents. It also has lower potency than many of the other NMBAs. In doses consistent with short to medium duration of action, rapacuronium has rapid and complete onset. In some doses it gives tracheal intubating conditions that compare favourably with those produced by suxamethonium (succinylcholine) during rapid sequence induction of anaesthesia. Tracheal intubating conditions improve as dose increases, but adverse effects (including potentially severe bronchospasm) become more prominent. Rapacuronium has an active metabolite that is at least as potent as the parent compound and is eliminated much less efficiently. Consequently, the time course of action of rapacuronium is prolonged after multiple doses or an infusion. Its potency is similar across age ranges and its time course after single doses is little altered in patients with hepatic or renal insufficiency. At least in part because of its active metabolite, rapacuronium is highly cumulative in renal failure. In keeping with its rapid onset and short to medium duration of action, rapacuronium has a more rapid clearance than most other NMBAs. Values for clearance are in the range 0.26-0.67 L/h/kg, with most studies giving a value of approximately 0.45 L/h/kg. There is some evidence that clearance declines marginally with advanced age, and it is also reduced in children. A typical value for steady-state volume of distribution is 0.3 L/kg. This is similar to that of many other NMBAs, but is small compared with many other drugs, as expected with a highly polar compound. Pharmacokinetic parameters do not appear to differ markedly in hepatic insufficiency, but clearance is reduced by approximately 30% in renal failure. Rapacuronium equilibrates very rapidly between the plasma and the site of effect. This is the principal explanation behind its unusually rapid onset. It also appears to have a similar potency at the larynx compared with the adductor pollicis; most other NMBAs are less effective at the larynx. Because it gives rapid onset in a dose consistent with brief duration of action, it was hoped that rapacuronium might be a suitable alternative to suxamethonium. It does not have the problems associated with suxamethonium, but its use is associated with bronchospasm, the incidence of which is dose-related. Rapacuronium has been withdrawn from sale because of this adverse effect, and its future availability is uncertain.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wight WJ, Wright PMC

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Clinical Pharmacokinetics

Year: 2002

Volume: 41

Issue: 13

Pages: 1059-1076

Print publication date: 01/01/2002

ISSN (print): 0312-5963

ISSN (electronic): 1179-1926


DOI: 10.2165/00003088-200241130-00004

PubMed id: 12403643