Side Effects of OxyContin on the Liver and Kidney

Spilled tablets of medicine close-up
OxyContin is the brand name for a time-released formulation of oxycodone. (Image: donna rae moratelli/iStock/Getty Images)

OxyContin is a popular prescription medication used for the treatment of pain. As a long-acting narcotic analgesic, OxyContin is an effective drug for maintaining baseline pain control. Unfortunately, OxyContin can produce unwanted side effects in various parts of the body, including the kidneys and liver. Although serious effects in the liver and kidneys are rare, close monitoring is recommended for patients with existing liver or kidney disease.

Oxycodone

As an opioid agonist, oxycodone works by activating opiate receptors in the central nervous system. Activation of opiate receptors results in analgesia and decreased sensations of pain. However, oxycodone has the potential for addiction and is classified as a controlled substance by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. Drugs that contain oxycodone are only available with a prescription written by a health care provider authorized to prescribe narcotic medications.

OxyContin

Marketed and manufactured by Purdue Pharmaceuticals, OxyContin is the brand name for a time-released formulation of oxycodone. OxyContin allows for a controlled release of oxycodone that results in an extended time frame of pain control. Although the most serious side effects of oxycodone affect the respiratory, digestive and nervous systems, oxycodone also impacts the kidneys and liver.

OxyContin Side Effects in the Liver

Oxycodone is extensively metabolized by cytochrome P450 enzymes that are found within the liver. Although drugs that alter the availability of these enzymes can affect the metabolism of oxycodone, the use of oxycodone has not been shown to significantly impact cytochrome P450 enzymes. Although rare, cases of hepatitis and cholestasis have been reported as the liver becomes inflamed from the obstruction of normal bile flow.

OxyContin Side Effects in the Kidneys

Oxycodone and the drug’s corresponding metabolites are eliminated by the kidneys following metabolism inside the liver. Although oxycodone can place increased filtration burden on the kidney, the drug does not appear to cause any direct toxic effects on the kidneys. Patients with existing liver or kidney disease may need to be closely monitored while taking oxycodone to avoid excessive dosing. Patients with questions regarding the use of oxycodone or OxyContin should speak with a health care provider.

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