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Generic Name: Nalbuphine Hydrochloride
Class: Opiate Partial Agonists
VA Class: CN101
CAS Number: 23277-43-2


Analgesic; opiate partial agonist.a b

Uses for Nubain


Relief of moderate to severe paina b such as that associated with acute and chronic medical disorders including cancer, orthopedic problems, renal or biliary colic, migraine or vascular headaches, and surgery.b

Preoperative and postoperative sedation and analgesia.a b

Supplement to balanced surgical anesthesia.a b

Obstetric analgesia during labor and delivery.106 a b

Nubain Dosage and Administration


  • Avoid increases in dose or frequency of administration which in susceptible individuals might result in physical dependence.b


Administer by sub-Q, IM, or IV injection.a b

IV Administration

For solution and drug compatibility information, see Compatibility under Stability.

Rate of Administration

For induction of anesthesia: Administer IV over 10–15 minutes.a b


Available as nalbuphine hydrochloride; dosage expressed in terms of the salt.a

Adjust dosage according to the severity of pain, physical status of the patient, and other drugs that the patient is receiving.a b


Patients Not Tolerant to Opiate Agonists
IV, IM, or Sub-Q

10 mg in a 70-kg patient (about 0.14 mg/kg).a b Repeat every 3–6 hours as necessary.a b

Patients Tolerant to Opiate Agonists
IV, IM, or Sub-Q

Initially, administer 25% of the usual dose of nalbuphine in patients chronically receiving morphine, meperidine, codeine, or other opiate agonists with a similar duration of action.b

Observe the patient for signs or symptoms of withdrawal (e.g., abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, lacrimation, rhinorrhea, anxiety, restlessness, increased temperature, piloerection).b If symptoms are troublesome, give IV morphine slowly in small increments until withdrawal symptoms are relieved.b However, waiting until the abstinence syndrome abates is probably preferred.b If withdrawal symptoms do not occur, increase dosage progressively until the desired level of analgesia is obtained.b

Supplement to Balanced Anesthesia

0.3–3 mg/kg for induction of anesthesia.a b For maintenance, 0.25–0.5 mg/kg as necessary.a b

Prescribing Limits


Patients Not Tolerant to Opiate Agonists
IV, IM, or Sub-Q

Maximum 20 mg as a single dose; maximum 160 mg daily.a b

Special Populations

Hepatic Impairment

Dosage reduction is recommended.a b

Renal Impairment

Dosage reduction is recommended.a b

Cautions for Nubain


  • Known hypersensitivity to nalbuphine or any ingredient in the formulation.a



Respiratory Effects

Possible respiratory depression.a Administer with caution and in low doses in patients with impaired respiration caused by other drugs, uremia, bronchial asthma, severe infection, cyanosis, or respiratory obstruction.a

Should be administered as a supplement to general anesthesia only by individuals who are experienced in the use of parenteral anesthetics and in the maintenance of an adequate airway and respiratory support.a

Facilities and personnel necessary for intubation, administration of oxygen, and assisted or controlled respiration should be readily available; an opiate antagonist (e.g., naloxone) should also be readily available.a

Abuse Potential

Possible tolerance, psychologic dependence, and physical dependence.a

Prescribe cautiously for patients who are emotionally unstable or have a history of opiate abuse; closely supervise these patients when long-term therapy is contemplated.a Avoid unnecessary increases in dose or frequency of administration; avoid use in anticipation of pain.a

CNS Depression

Performance of activities requiring mental alertness and physical coordination may be impaired.a b When used in emergency procedures, keep the patient under observation until recovery from the drug’s effects that would affect driving or other potentially hazardous tasks has occurred.a b

Concurrent use of other CNS depressants may potentiate CNS depression.a b (See Interactions.)

Head Injury and Increased Intracranial Pressure

Potential for elevation of CSF pressure as a result of vasodilation following carbon dioxide retention.a b Opiate effects may obscure the existence, extent, or course of intracranial pathology.a b Use in patients with head injury, other intracranial lesions, or preexisting elevation in intracranial pressure only if the potential benefits justify the possible risks.a b

Sensitivity Reactions

Hypersensitivity Reactions

Anaphylactic or anaphylactoid and other serious hypersensitivity reactions, including shock, respiratory distress, respiratory arrest, bradycardia, cardiac arrest, hypotension, and laryngeal edema, reported.106

Sulfite Sensitivity

Some formulations contain sodium metabisulfite, which may cause allergic-type reactions (including anaphylaxis and life-threatening or less severe asthmatic episodes) in certain susceptible individuals.105

General Precautions

Patients Dependent on Opiates

Use with caution in patients who have been chronically receiving opiate agonists; nalbuphine does not suppress the abstinence syndrome in these patients; high doses may precipitate withdrawal symptoms (e.g., abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, lacrimation, rhinorrhea, anxiety, restlessness, increased temperature, piloerection) as a result of opiate antagonist effect.a b (See Patients Tolerant to Opiate Agonists under Dosage and Administration.)

Biliary Tract Surgery

Possible spasm of Oddi’s sphincter; use with caution in patients about to undergo biliary tract surgery.a


Use with caution in patients with MI who exhibit nausea and vomiting.a


During studies evaluating nalbuphine as a supplement to balanced anesthesia, increased incidence of bradycardia reported in patients who did not receive atropine preoperatively.a b

Specific Populations


Category B.a

Safe use during pregnancy (except during labor and delivery) not established.a b

Administration during labor and delivery may result in fetal bradycardia or respiratory depression, apnea, cyanosis, and hypotonia in neonates at birth.a b Adverse effects may resolve in some cases following maternal administration of naloxone during labor.106 Fetal bradycardia may be severe and prolonged; permanent neurological damage associated with fetal bradycardia reported.106 In addition, a sinusoidal fetal heart rate pattern associated with maternal use of nalbuphine.106

Use with caution in women during labor and delivery, especially in those delivering premature infants; monitor neonates for respiratory depression, apnea, bradycardia, and cardiac arrhythmias.106


Distributed into milk.a Caution if used in nursing women.a

Pediatric Use

Safety and efficacy not established in children <18 years of age.a

Hepatic Impairment

Use with caution and in reduced dosage.a b

Renal Impairment

Use with caution and in reduced dosage.a b

Common Adverse Effects

Sedation, sweatiness, clamminess, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, vertigo, dry mouth, headache.a

Interactions for Nubain

Specific Drugs and Laboratory Tests

Drug or Test



CNS depressants (general anesthetics, phenothiazines, tranquilizers, sedatives, hypnotics, alcohol)

Additive CNS depressant effectsa

Reduce dosage of one or both drugsa

Opiate agonists

Usual doses do not antagonize the effects of an opiate agonist administered immediately before, concurrently with, or just after nalbuphine is given inpatients who are not dependent on opiate agonistsa b

Tests for detection of opiates

Possible interference with enzymatic methods for detection of opiatesa

Consult test manufacturer for specific detailsa

Nubain Pharmacokinetics



Undergoes first-pass metabolism in the GI mucosa and/or liver following oral administration; only about 1/5 as effective for pain relief when given orally as when given IM.b


Following IV administration, onset of action occurs within 2–3 minutes; peak effects occur in about 30 minutes.a b

Following IM or sub-Q administration, onset of analgesia occurs within 15 minutes.a b


After IV, IM, or sub-Q administration, duration of analgesia is usually 3–6 hours.a b



Crosses the placenta; fetal plasma concentrations are approximately equivalent to or higher than concurrent maternal plasma concentrations.104

Distributed into milk in small amounts (<1% of administered dose).a

Plasma Protein Binding

Not appreciably bound.b



Metabolized in the liver.b

Elimination Route

Nalbuphine and its metabolites are excreted principally in feces via biliary secretion and to a lesser extent in urine.b


Plasma half-life is 5 hours.a b Elimination half-life averaged 2.4 hours (range: 1.3–3.9 hours) following a single IV dose in pregnant women in active labor.104





25°C (may be exposed to 15–30°C).a Protect from excessive light.a


For information on systemic interactions resulting from concomitant use, see Interactions.


Solution CompatibilityHID


Dextrose 5% in sodium chloride 0.9%

Dextrose 10% in water

Ringer's injection, lactated

Sodium chloride 0.9%

Drug Compatibility
Y-site CompatibilityHID


Acyclovir sodium




Cisatracurium besylate


Dexmedetomidine HCl

Etoposide phosphate

Fenoldopam mesylate


Fludarabine phosphate

Gemcitabine HCl

Granisetron HCl

Hetastarch in lactated electrolyte injection (Hextend)


Melphalan HCl




Remifentanil HCl



Vinorelbine tartrate


Allopurinol sodium

Amphotericin B cholesteryl sulfate complex


Methotrexate sodium

Nafcillin sodium

Pemetrexed disodium

Piperacillin sodium–tazobactam sodium


Sodium bicarbonate


  • Analgesic effect may result from an interaction with an opiate receptor site in the CNS (probably in or associated with the limbic system); opiate antagonistic effect may result from competitive inhibition at the opiate receptor, but other mechanisms are probably also involved.b

  • Believed to be a partial agonist at the κ opiate receptor100 101 102 103 107 and an antagonist or partial antagonist at the μ receptor100 102 107 and to have minimal agonist activity at the Σ receptor.100 103

  • Analgesic activity of IM, IV, or sub-Q nalbuphine is approximately equal to that of IM, IV, or sub-Q morphine on a weight basis.b

  • Produces respiratory depression, sedation, and miosis; however, respiratory depression in healthy adults plateaus with cumulative IV doses of 30 mg (given in doses of 10 mg/hour).b

Advice to Patients

  • Potential for nalbuphine to impair mental alertness or physical coordination; do not drive or operate machinery until effects on individual are known.a

  • Importance of taking exactly as prescribed; do not exceed the recommended dosage.a Do not abruptly discontinue the drug after prolonged usage.a

  • Importance of informing clinicians of existing or contemplated concomitant therapy, including prescription and OTC drugs and alcohol consumption, as well as any concomitant illnesses.b

  • Importance of women informing their clinician if they are or plan to become pregnant or plan to breast-feed.a

  • Importance of advising patients of other important precautionary information.a (See Cautions.)


Excipients in commercially available drug preparations may have clinically important effects in some individuals; consult specific product labeling for details.

Please refer to the ASHP Drug Shortages Resource Center for information on shortages of one or more of these preparations.

* available from one or more manufacturer, distributor, and/or repackager by generic (nonproprietary) name

Nalbuphine Hydrochloride


Dosage Forms


Brand Names



Injection, for IV infusion via compatible patient-controlled infusion device only

1.5 mg/mL*

Nalbuphine Hydrochloride Injection


10 mg/mL*

Nalbuphine Hydrochloride Injection



20 mg/mL*

Nalbuphine Hydrochloride Injection



AHFS DI Essentials. © Copyright 2017, Selected Revisions September 4, 2013. American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, Inc., 7272 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, Maryland 20814.


100. Jaffe JH, Martin WR. Opioid analgesics and antagonists. In: Gilman AG, Goodman LS, Rall TW et al, eds. Goodman and Gilman’s the pharmacological basis of therapeutics. 7th ed. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company; 1985:491-531.

101. Martin WR. Pharmacology of opioids. Pharmacol Rev. 1983; 35:283-323. [IDIS 182771] [PubMed 6144112]

102. Zola EM, McLeod DC. Comparative effects and analgesic efficacy of the agonist-antagonist opioids. Drug Intell Clin Pharm. 1983; 17:411-7. [IDIS 171471] [PubMed 6861632]

103. Schmidt WK, Tam SW, Shotzberger GS et al. Nalbuphine. Drug Alcohol Depend. 1985; 14:339-62. [PubMed 2986929]

104. Wilson SJ, Errick JK, Balkon J. Pharmacokinetics of nalbuphine during parturition. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1986; 155:340-4. [IDIS 220171] [PubMed 3740151]

105. Food and Drug Administration. Sulfiting agents; labeling in drugs for human use; warning statement: final rule [21 CFR Part 201]. Fed Regist. 1986; 51:43900-5.

106. Du Pont Pharma. Nubain (nalbuphine hydrochloride) prescribing information. Manati, PR; 1994 Oct.

107. Nalbuphine. In: WHO Expert Committee on Drug Dependence. 25th report. Technical report series 775. Geneva: World Health Organization; 1989:30-2.

108. Errick JK, Heel RC. Nalbuphine: a preliminary review of its pharmacological properties and therapeutic efficacy. Drugs. 1983; 26:191-211. [IDIS 175196] [PubMed 6137354]

109. Schmidt WK, Tam SW, Shotzberger GS et al. Nalbuphine. Drug Alcohol Depend. 1985; 14:339-62. [PubMed 2986929]

110. Hammond JE. Reversal of opioid-associated late-onset respiratory depression by nalbuphine hydrochloride. Lancet. 1984; 2:1208. [IDIS 192992] [PubMed 6150248]

111. Latasch L, Probst S, Dudziak R. Reversal by nalbuphine of respiratory depression caused by fentanyl. Anesth Analg. 1984; 63:814-6. [IDIS 190789] [PubMed 6465575]

112. Bailey PL, Clark HJ, Pace NL et al. Antagonism of postoperative opioid-induced respiratory depression: nalbuphine versus naloxone. Anesth Analg. 1987; 66:1109-14. [IDIS 235183] [PubMed 3662056]

113. Baxter AD, Samson B, Penning J et al. Prevention of epidural morphine-induced respiratory depression with intravenous nalbuphine infusion in post-thoracotomy patients. Can J Anaesth. 1989; 39:503-9.

114. Latasch L, Teichmuller T, Dudziak R et al. Antagonisation of fentanyl-induced respiratory depression by nalbuphine. Acta Anaesthesiol Belg. 1989; 40:35-40. [PubMed 2499159]

115. Cheng EY, May J. Nalbuphine reversal of respiratory depression after epidural sufentanil. Crit Care Med. 1989; 17:378-9. [PubMed 2522870]

116. Penning JP, Samson B, Baxter AD. Reversal of epidural morphine-induced respiratory depression and pruritus with nalbuphine. Can J Anaesth. 1988; 35:599-604. [IDIS 248954] [PubMed 3144443]

117. Jaffe RS, Moldenhauer CC, Hug CC Jr et al. Nalbuphine antagonism of fentanyl-induced ventilatory depression: a randomized trial. Anesthesiology. 1988; 68:254-60. [IDIS 310419] [PubMed 3277486]

118. Bailey PL, Clark NJ, Pace NL et al. Failure of nalbuphine to antagonize morphine: a double-blind comparison with naloxone. Anesthe Analg. 186; 65:605-11.

119. Bailey PL, Clark NJ, Henderson C et al. Failure of nalbuphine to antagonize morphine-induced respiratory depression. Anesthesiology. 1985; 63(Suppl 3A):A370.

120. Moon RE, Camporesi EM. Pulmonary edema in a young, healthy woman. Chest. 1987; 92:385-6. [PubMed 3608619]

121. Stadnyk A, Grossman RF. Nalbuphine-induced pulmonary edema. Chest. 1986; 90:773-4. [IDIS 227769] [PubMed 3769586]

122. DesMarteau JK, Cassot AL. Acute pulmonary edema resulting from nalbuphine reversal of fentanyl-induced respiratory depression. Anesthesiology. 1986; 65:237. [IDIS 219729] [PubMed 3740525]

123. Stadnyk AN, Grossman RF. Pulmonary edema in a young, healthy woman. Chest. 1987; 92:386. [PubMed 3608620]

124. Guillonneau M, Jacqz-Aigrain E, de Crepy A et al. Perinatal adverse effects of nalbuphine given during parturition. Lancet. 1990; 1:1588.

a. Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc. Nubain (nalbuphine hydrochloride) prescribing information. Manati, PR; 2003 May

b. AHFS Drug Information 2004. McEvoy GK, ed. Nalbuphine hydrochloride. Bethesda, MD: American Society of Health-System Pharmacists; 2004:2078-9.

HID. Trissel LA. Handbook on injectable drugs. 17th ed. Bethesda, MD: American Society of Health-System Pharmacists; 2013:841-845.