Acthrel Corticorelin ovine triflutate

Get an overview of ACTHREL (corticorelin ovine triflutate injection, powder, lyophilized, for solution), including its generic name, formulation (i.e. pill, oral solution, injection, inhaled medicine) and why it’s used. The medication in Acthrel can be sold under different names.

Refer to the “Also Known As” section to reference different products that include the same medication as Acthrel.

Drug Basics

Brand Name: Acthrel





Data Current As Of: 2018-10-05

For intravenous injection only

indications & usage

ACTHREL® is indicated for use in differentiating pituitary and ectopic production of ACTH in patients with ACTH-dependent Cushing's syndrome.

differential diagnosis

There are two forms of Cushing's syndrome:

  • ACTH-dependent (83%), in which hypercortisolism is due either to pituitary hypersecretion of ACTH (Cushing's disease) resulting from an adenoma (40%, usually microadenomas) or nonadenomatous hyperplasia, possibly of hypothalamic origin (28%), or to hypercortisolism that is secondary to ectopic secretion of ACTH (15%) and,

  • ACTH- independent (17%), in which hypercortisolism is due to autonomous cortisol secretion by an adrenal tumor (9% adenomas, 8% carcinomas).

After the establishment of hypercortisolism consistent with the presence of Cushing's syndrome, and following the elimination of autonomous adrenal hyperfunction as its cause, the corticorelin test is used to aid in establishing the source of excessive ACTH secretion.

The corticorelin stimulation test helps to differentiate between the etiologies of ACTH-dependent hypercortisolism as follows:

  • 1.High basal plasma ACTH plus high basal plasma cortisol (20 - 40 mcg/dL). ACTHREL® injection (1 mcg/kg) results in:
    • Increased plasma ACTH levels
    • Increased plasma cortisol levels
      Diagnosis: Cushing's disease (ACTH of pituitary origin)
  • 2High basal plasma ACTH (may be very high) plus high basal plasma cortisol (20 - 40 mcg/dL). ACTHREL® injection (1 mcg/kg) results in:
    • Little or no response of plasma ACTH levels
    • Little or no response of plasma cortisol levels

    Diagnosis: Ectopic ACTH syndrome

test methodology

To evaluate the status of the pituitary-adrenal axis in the differentiation of a pituitary source from an ectopic source of excessive ACTH secretion, a corticorelin test procedure requires a minimum of five blood samples.

  • Venous blood samples should be drawn 15 minutes before and immediately prior to ACTHREL® administration. The ACTH baseline is obtained by averaging the values of the two samples.

  • Administer ACTHREL® as an intravenous infusion over a 30 to 60- second interval at a dose of 1 mcg/kg body weight. Higher doses are not recommended (see PRECAUTIONS and ADVERSE REACTIONS ).

  • Draw venous blood samples at 15, 30, and 60 minutes after administration.

  • Blood samples should be handled as recommended by the laboratory that will determine their ACTH content. It is extremely important to recognize that the reliability of the ACTHREL® test is directly related to the inter-assay and intra-assay variability of the laboratory performing the assay.

Cortisol determinations may be performed on the same blood samples for the same time points as outlined above. The blood sample handling precautions noted for ACTH should be followed for cortisol.

interpretation of test results

The interpretation of the ACTH and cortisol responses following ACTHREL® administration requires a knowledge of the clinical status of the individual patient, understanding of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal physiology, and familiarity with the normal hormonal ranges and the standards used by the laboratory that performs the ACTH and cortisol assays.

cushing's disease

The results of challenge with corticorelin injection have been reported in approximately 300 patients with Cushing's disease. Although the ACTH and cortisol responses were variable, a hyper-response to corticorelin was seen in a majority of patients, despite high basal cortisol levels. This response pattern indicates an impairment of the negative feedback of cortisol on the pituitary. Patients with pituitary-dependent Cushing's disease tested with corticorelin do not show the negative correlation between basal and stimulated levels of ACTH and cortisol that is found in normal subjects. A positive correlation between basal ACTH levels and maximum ACTH increments after corticorelin administration has been found in Cushing's disease patients.

ectopic acth secretion

Patients with Cushing's syndrome due to ectopic ACTH secretion (N=32) were found to have very high basal levels of ACTH and cortisol, which were not further stimulated by corticorelin. However, there have been rare instances of patients with ectopic sources of ACTH that have responded to the corticorelin test.

  High ACTH Response Low ACTH Response
High Basal ACTH Cushing's Disease Ectopic ACTH Secretion

(mean of 181 patients)
Basal ACTH 63 ± 72 pg/mL (mean ± SD)
Peak ACTH 189 ± 262 pg/mL (mean ± SD)
Mean of individual change from baseline + 227%

(mean for 31 patients)
Basal ACTH 266 ± 464 pg/mL (mean ± SD)
Peak ACTH 276 ± 466 pg/mL (mean ± SD)
Mean of individual change from baseline + 15%

False negative responses to the corticorelin test in Cushing's disease patients occur approximately 5 to 10% of the time, which may lead the clinician to an incorrect diagnosis of ectopic production of ACTH at that frequency (see INDICATIONS AND USAGE, Differential Diagnosis ).


ACTHREL is contraindicated in patients with a history of a hypersensitivity reaction to ovine corticorelin or any of its excipients.



Origin Germany

Rx only

Rev. 07/2016

This drug label information is as submitted to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and is intended for informational purposes only. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911. You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.
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