Using Buprenorphine to Help Explain Pharmacodynamics

Two very common terms in pharmacology and the pharmacy world in general are pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics.  The best way I have been taught these terms is by the following:

  • Pharmacodynamics – what the drug does to the body
  • Pharmacokinetics – what the body does to the drug

So using buprenorphine as my example, I want to tackle pharmacodynamics.  The pharmacodynamics of this medication is that it partially stimulates mu receptors with high affinity.

Affinity is how “tightly” a drug is bound to a receptor.  The high affinity explains why it may be useful in the management of addiction.  It can help prevent other opioids (full agonists) like morphine, fentanyl etc. from binding and giving a typical full mu agonist effect.

Because it partially stimulates (also known as a partial agonist), you do get some opioid activity which explains why it is a controlled substance.  This partial stimulation can work to help prevent withdrawal.  What you must remember is that these effects are dose dependent!

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Written By Eric Christianson

October 5, 2016

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