Naltrexone and nalmefene are approved for the treatment of alcohol use disorders, in different countries. Naltrexone is also approved for the treatment for opioid use disorders, most recently in a depot formulation. These compounds target primarily μ(mu)- and κ(kappa)-opioid receptor systems, which are involved in the downstream neurobiological effects of alcohol and in the modulation of neuroendocrine stress systems. The study objective was to compare the neuroendocrine effects of naltrexone and nalmefene on adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), cortisol, and prolactin, in normal volunteers.
Adult normal volunteers (n = 11 male and n = 9 female) were studied in a stress-minimized inpatient setting on three consecutive days, after intravenous saline, naltrexone HCl (10 mg), or nalmefene HCl (10 mg), in fixed order. ACTH, cortisol, and prolactin were analyzed pre-injection and up to 180 min post-injection.
Naltrexone and nalmefene caused elevations in ACTH and cortisol compared with saline. Nalmefene had a greater effect on ACTH and cortisol, compared with naltrexone. Both compounds also caused elevations in prolactin in males (females were not examined, due to the influence of menstrual cycle on prolactin).
This study suggests that both nalmefene and naltrexone have effects potentially due to κ-partial agonism in humans, as well as antagonist effects at μ-receptors.

© 2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.