Clinical pharmacokinetics of pravastatin: mechanisms of pharmacokinetic events

Clin Pharmacokinet. 2000 Dec;39(6):397-412. doi: 10.2165/00003088-200039060-00002.


Pravastatin, one of the 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase inhibitors (statins) widely used in the management of hypercholesterolaemia, has unique pharmacokinetic characteristics among the members of this class. Many in vivo and in vitro human and animal studies suggest that active transport mechanisms are involved in the pharmacokinetics of pravastatin. The oral bioavailability of pravastatin is low because of incomplete absorption and a first-pass effect. The drug is rapidly absorbed from the upper part of the small intestine, probably via proton-coupled carrier-mediated transport, and then taken up by the liver by a sodium-independent bile acid transporter. About half of the pravastatin that reaches the liver via the portal vein is extracted by the liver, and this hepatic extraction is mainly attributed to biliary excretion which is performed by a primary active transport mechanism. The major metabolites are produced by chemical degradation in the stomach rather than by cytochrome P450-dependent metabolism in the liver. The intact drug and its metabolites are cleared through both hepatic and renal routes, and tubular secretion is a predominant mechanism in renal excretion. The dual routes of pravastatin elimination reduce the need for dosage adjustment if the function of either the liver or kidney is impaired, and also reduce the possibility of drug interactions compared with other statins. which are largely eliminated by metabolism. The lower protein binding than other statins weakens the tendency for displacement of highly protein-bound drugs. Although all statins show a hepatoselective disposition, the mechanism for pravastatin is different from that of the others. There is high uptake of pravastatin by the liver via an active transport mechanism, but not by other tissues because of its hydrophilicity, whereas the disposition characteristics of other statins result from high hepatic extraction because of high lipophilicity. These pharmacokinetic properties of pravastatin may be the result of the drug being given in the pharmacologically active open hydroxy acid form and the fact that its hydrophilicity is markedly higher than that of other statins. The nature of the pravastatin transporters, particularly in humans, remains unknown at present. Further mechanistic studies are required to establish the pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic relationships of pravastatin and to provide the optimal therapeutic efficacy for various types of patients with hypercholesterolaemia.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / metabolism
  • Area Under Curve
  • Biotransformation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors* / metabolism
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors* / pharmacokinetics
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors* / pharmacology
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Male
  • Pravastatin* / metabolism
  • Pravastatin* / pharmacokinetics
  • Pravastatin* / pharmacology
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Pravastatin