The In Vivo Glucuronidation of Buprenorphine and Norbuprenorphine Determined by Liquid Chromatography-Electrospray Ionization-Tandem Mass Spectrometry


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Abstract

The opioid partial agonist medication, buprenorphine (BUP), and its primary metabolite, norbuprenorphine (NBUP), are extensively glucuronidated. Sensitive analytical methods that include determination of buprenorphine-3-glucuronide (BUPG) and norbuprenorphine-3-glucuronide (NBUPG) are needed to more fully understand the metabolism and pharmacokinetics of buprenorphine. A method has now been developed that uses solid-phase extraction followed by liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization-tandem mass spectrometry. BUP-d4, NBUP-d3, and morphine-3-glucuronide-d3 were used as internal standards. The lower limit of quantitation was 0.1 and 0.5 ng/mL for each of the analytes in 1-mL of human plasma and urine, respectively, except for NBUP in urine in which it was 2.5 ng/mL. The analytes were stable under the following conditions: plasma and urine at room temperature, up to 20 hours; plasma and urine at −20°C for 119 and 85 days, respectively; plasma freeze-thaw, up to 3 cycles; processed sample, up to 96 hours at −20°C and up to 48 hours on the autosampler; stock solutions at room temperature and at −20°C, up to 6 hours and 128 days, respectively. In plasma collected from 5 subjects on maintenance daily sublingual doses of 16 mg BUP and 4 mg naloxone, respective 0- to 24-hour areas under the curve were 32, 88, 26, and 316 ng/mL×h for BUP, NBUP, BUPG, and NBUPG. In urine samples respective percent of daily dose excreted in the 24-hour urine were 0.014%, 1.89%, 1.01%, and 7.76%. This method allowed us to determine that NBUPG is a major metabolite present in plasma and urine of BUP. Because urinary elimination is limited (≈11% of daily dose), the role of NBUPG in total clearance of buprenorphine is not yet known.

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