Background: Rifampin (rifampicin) is a potent inducer of several cytochrome P450 (CYP) enzymes, including CYP3A4. The cholesterol-lowering drug simvastatin has an extensive first-pass metabolism, and it is partially metabolized by CYP3A4. This study was conducted to investigate the effect of rifampin on the pharmacokinetics of simvastatin.
Methods: In a randomized cross-over study with two phases and a washout of 4 weeks, 10 healthy volunteers received a 5-day pretreatment with rifampin (600 mg daily) or placebo. On day 6, a single 40-mg dose of simvastatin was administered orally. Plasma concentrations of simvastatin and its active metabolite simvastatin acid were measured up to 12 hours with a sensitive liquid chromatography-ion spray tandem mass spectrometry method.
Results: Rifampin decreased the total area under the plasma concentration-time curve of simvastatin and simvastatin acid by 87% (P < .001) and 93% (P < .001), respectively. Also the peak concentrations of both simvastatin and simvastatin acid were reduced greatly (by 90%) by rifampin (P < .001). On the other hand, rifampin had no significant effect on the elimination half-life of simvastatin or simvastatin acid.
Conclusions: Rifampin greatly decreases the plasma concentrations of simvastatin and simvastatin acid. Because the elimination half-life of simvastatin was not affected by rifampin, induction of the CYP3A4-mediated first-pass metabolism of simvastatin in the intestine and the liver probably explains this interaction. Concomitant use of potent inducers of CYP3A4 can lead to a considerably reduced cholesterol-lowering efficacy of simvastatin.