Background: Tacrolimus, a substrate of CYP3A, has low and variable bioavailability similar to cyclosporine. Co-administration of ketoconazole, potent inhibitor of gut and hepatic CYP3A, has been shown to increase tacrolimus bioavailability in healthy volunteers. The purpose of this study is to assess the role of gut metabolism in the overall bioavailability of tacrolimus in a renal transplant population.
Methods: We prospectively studied 19 adult renal transplant recipients who were receiving tacrolimus as part of a quadruple, sequential immunosuppression regimen. Each patient received tacrolimus (4-hr intravenous dose of 0.04 mg/kg between postoperative days 2 and 4). Whole blood samples were collected over 24 hr. After a 24-hr washout period, a single oral dose of ketoconazole (400 mg) was administered followed by the same intravenous dose of tacrolimus, and subsequent samples were obtained. Steady state oral pharmacokinetic profiles were obtained between 1 and 3 months after transplant while patients were receiving twice daily dosing of tacrolimus to maintain whole blood levels between 10 and 20 ng/ml. Two days later, 400 mg of ketoconazole was administered orally 2 hr before to the morning dose. Whole blood samples were collected over 12 hr.
Results: In the absence of ketoconazole, 8.0% of the tacrolimus dose underwent first pass metabolism (E(H)), whereas in the presence of ketoconazole, first pass metabolism was 6.2% (P=0.01). Based on this difference in first pass metabolism, an increase of 2% in bioavailability is expected, but an increase of 47% is observed (P=0.001).
Conclusions: This indicates that the gut metabolism of tacrolimus is extensive and contributes significantly to its bioavailability.