Objective: To determine the pharmacokinetics and organ distribution of i.v. and oral methylene blue, which is used to prevent ifosfamide-induced encephalopathy in oncology.
Methods: The concentration of methylene blue in whole blood was measured using high-performance liquid chromatography in seven volunteers after i.v. and oral administration of 100 mg methylene blue with and without mesna. The distribution of methylene blue in different tissues was measured in rats after intraduodenal and i.v. application.
Results: The time course of methylene blue in whole blood after i.v. administration showed a multiphasic time course with an estimated terminal half-life of 5.25 h. Following oral administration, the area under the concentration-time curve was much lower (9 nmol/min/ml vs 137 nmol/min/ml). Co-administration of mesna, which could influence distribution by ion-pairing, did not alter the pharmacokinetics. The urinary excretion of methylene blue and its leucoform was only moderately higher after i.v. administration (18% vs 28% dose). Intraduodenal administration to rats resulted in higher concentrations in intestinal wall and liver but lower concentrations in whole blood and brain than i.v. methylene blue.
Conclusions: Differences in organ distribution of methylene blue are mainly responsible for the different pharmacokinetics after oral and i.v. administration. If methylene blue acts in the liver, where ifosfamide is primarily activated to reactive and potentially toxic metabolites, oral and i.v. methylene blue are likely to be equally effective. However, if the site of action is the central nervous system, i.v. methylene blue which results in much higher concentrations in brain seems preferable.