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Recent Advances in the Development of 14-Alkoxy Substituted Morphinans as Potent and Safer Opioid Analgesics

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Morphine and other opioid morphinans produce analgesia primarily through μ opioid receptors (MORs), which mediate beneficial but also non-beneficial actions. There is a continued search for efficacious opioid analgesics with reduced complications. The cornerstone in the development of 14-alkoxymorphinans as novel analgesic drugs was the synthesis of the highly potent MOR agonist 14-O-methyloxymorphone. This opioid showed high antinociceptive potency but also the adverse effects associated with morphine type compounds. Further developments represent the introduction of a methyl and benzyl group at position 5 of 14-O-methyloxymorphone leading to the strong opioid analgesics 14-methoxymetopon and its 5-benzyl analogue, which exhibited less pronounced side effects than morphine although interacting selectively with MORs. Introduction of arylalkyl substituents such as phenylpropoxy in position 14 led to a series of extremely potent antinociceptive agents with enhanced affinities at all three opioid receptor types. During the past years, medicinal chemistry and opioid research focused increasingly on exploring the therapeutic potential of peripheral opioid receptors by peripheralization of opioids in order to minimize the occurrence of centrally-mediated side effects. Strategies to reduce penetration to the central nervous system (CNS) include chemical modifications that increase hydrophilicity. Zwitterionic 6-amino acid conjugates of 14-Oalkyloxymorphones were developed in an effort to obtain opioid agonists that have limited access to the CNS. These compounds show high antinociceptive potency by interacting with peripheral MORs. Opioid drugs with peripheral site of action represent an important target for the treatment of severe and chronic pain without the adverse actions of centrally acting opioids.

Keywords: 14-Alkoxymorphinans; affinity; agonist; analgesia; antinociceptive potency; chemistry; morphine; opioid receptors; pain; selectivity; structure-activity relationship; μ opioid agonists

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Institute of Pharmacy and Center for Molecular Biosciences Innsbruck (CMBI), University of Innsbruck, Innrain 52a, A-6020 Innsbruck, Austria.

Publication date: 2012-05-01

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