Development of a Translational Model to Assess the Impact of Opioid Overdose and Naloxone Dosing on Respiratory Depression and Cardiac Arrest

John Mann, Mohammadreza Samieegohar, Anik Chaturbedi, Joel Zirkle, Xiaomei Han, S. Farzad Ahmadi, Amy Eshleman, Aaron Janowsky, Katherine Wolfrum, Tracy Swanson, Shelley Bloom, Albert Dahan, Erik Olofsen, Jeffry Florian, David G. Strauss, Zhihua Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


In response to a surge of deaths from synthetic opioid overdoses, there have been increased efforts to distribute naloxone products in community settings. Prior research has assessed the effectiveness of naloxone in the hospital setting; however, it is challenging to assess naloxone dosing regimens in the community/first-responder setting, including reversal of respiratory depression effects of fentanyl and its derivatives (fentanyls). Here, we describe the development and validation of a mechanistic model that combines opioid mu receptor binding kinetics, opioid agonist and antagonist pharmacokinetics, and human respiratory and circulatory physiology, to evaluate naloxone dosing to reverse respiratory depression. Validation supports our model, which can quantitatively predict displacement of opioids by naloxone from opioid mu receptors in vitro, hypoxia-induced cardiac arrest in vivo, and opioid-induced respiratory depression in humans from different fentanyls. After validation, overdose simulations were performed with fentanyl and carfentanil followed by administration of different intramuscular naloxone products. Carfentanil induced more cardiac arrest events and was more difficult to reverse than fentanyl. Opioid receptor binding data indicated that carfentanil has substantially slower dissociation kinetics from the opioid receptor compared with nine other fentanyls tested, which likely contributes to the difficulty in reversing carfentanil. Administration of the same dose of naloxone intramuscularly from two different naloxone products with different formulations resulted in differences in the number of virtual patients experiencing cardiac arrest. This work provides a robust framework to evaluate dosing regimens of opioid receptor antagonists to reverse opioid-induced respiratory depression, including those caused by newly emerging synthetic opioids.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1020-1032
Number of pages13
JournalClinical pharmacology and therapeutics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2022
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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