Recent data suggest that optimal cyclosporine (CsA) exposure early post-transplant significantly reduces the risk of acute graft rejection. They indicate that trough level monitoring is inadequate for precise concentration-controlled therapy, and suggest that absorption profiling may offer a superior approach for guiding clinical immunosuppression with Neoral. An international, prospective, multicenter study examined the feasibility, accuracy, precision and clinical utility of cyclosporine microemulsion (Neoral) absorption profiling in de novo renal transplant recipients receiving basiliximab immunoprophylaxis and cyclosporine microemulsion maintenance immunosuppression. The nested pharmacokinetic study reported here was conducted in 4 study centers in which full (11-point) pharmacokinetic profiles were performed on days 3, 7, 14 and 84 post-transplant to examine absorption profile and absorption efficiency, and to determine optimal sparse-sampling pharmacokinetic methods to predict Neoral exposure. Twenty-four patients had complete 12-h pharmacokinetic (PK) data on all 4 sampling days. Area under the time-concentration curve (AUC) over the first 4 h of the 12-h dosage interval (AUC[0-4]) and AUC over the entire 12-h dosage interval (AUC[0-12]) reached 3803 +/- 1033 and 7462 +/- 2120 microg.h/L respectively, by day 3, remained stable throughout the first 2 weeks, and declined to 2310 +/- 698 and 4062 +/- 1158 microg.h/L by day 84 (p < 0.001). AUC[0-4], capturing the drug absorption phase, represented 52% of the AUC[0-12] values across the four PK study days (mean R2 > 0.90). Between-patient variability was highest for C0 and C1 (mean coefficient of variation [c.v.] 36-47%), and lower for C2 (mean c.v. 28%) and subsequent time-points during the dosing interval. Mean relative CsA absorption, measured by dose- and weight-adjusted AUC[0-4] and AUC[0-12], increased significantly over time. The dose- and weight-corrected AUC[0-4h] (DWC.AUC[0-4]) rose by over 100% (p < 0.001) from 753 +/- 202 at day 3 to 905 +/- 232 at day 7, 1080 +/- 330 at day 14 and 1521 +/- 316 by day 84, while the dose-and weight-corrected AUC[0-12h] (DWC.AUC[0-12]) rose by over 80% (p < 0.001) from 1477 +/- 390 microg.h/L/ mg/kg on day 3, to 1721 +/- 426 on day 7, 2086 +/- 478 on day 14 and 2690 +/- 602 on day 84 (p < 0.001). Relative CsA absorption varied over 5-fold between patients at day 3, but patients tended to remain within the same quartiles over time. Sparse-sample modeling identified optimum 3-point, 2-point and 1-point predictors for AUC[0-4] and AUC[0-12]. C2 was the most accurate and robust .1-point predictor for AUC[0-4] (mean R2: 0.80), while C3 was superior for AUC[0-12] (mean R2: 0.75). C0 was not a good predictor of either AUC[0-4] or AUC[0-12] (mean R2: 0.13 and 0.24, respectively).
Conclusion: Absorption profiling defines the heterogeneity in CsA exposure and relative absorption post-transplant. A 2-h post-dose blood sample is the most consistent, accurate and robust single-point predictor of the absorption phase measured by AUC[0-4] and should replace trough level monitoring for accurate concentration-control of Neoral therapy in the clinical setting. The use of additional samples at 1 and 3h is more complex and costly, but increases prediction accuracy and may be valuable in selected patients with erratic absorption.