Background: The potential absorption-limiting effect of intestinal efflux transporters such as P-glycoprotein (P-gp) has been well recognized, primarily based on results of numerous Caco-2 cell studies showing that flux, permeability, or transport clearance of drugs from the basolateral to the apical (B --> A) compartment is greater than that from the apical to the basolateral (A --> B) compartment. Except for very limited examples such as celiprolol, talinolol, pafenolol and paclitaxel, the potential clinical impact of these transporters on oral absorption of the vast number of commonly prescribed drug substrates in humans has not been closely examined to date.
Objective: To evaluate whether these efflux transporters may play a significant role in limiting oral absorption of 13 commonly used drugs (digoxin, etoposide, felodipine, fexofenadine, furosemide, indinavir, losartan, nadolol, propranolol, ritonavir, saquinavir, tacrolimus, and verapamil) in humans.
Methods: Drug absorption properties such as the rate (as judged by the Cmax and tmax) and extent (as judged by AUC or urinary excretion of drugs) of absorption as a function of dose, as well as the completeness of oral absorption were obtained from the literature.
Results: The absorption properties of these 13 drugs are not consistent with absorption-retarding expectations from in vitro studies because they all show apparent dose-independent kinetics in absorption or bioavailability and completeness of oral absorption is shown for most of the drugs evaluated.
Conclusions: In spite of being substrates of intestinal efflux transporters such as P-gp, the in vivo oral absorption of 13 drugs examined apparently is not significantly impeded by efflux transporters. Thus, there may exist an apparent discrepancy between in vitro "expectations" and in vivo results; potential reasons for this are discussed. The present findings, however, do not de-emphasize potential in vivo importance of efflux transporters in affecting (increasing or decreasing) oral absorption of certain substrate drugs, especially those with low to moderate intestinal permeability and with low therapeutic index, or the importance of efflux transporters in the study of mechanisms of drug absorption and some potentially clinically significant drug-drug and drug-food interactions.