Background: Many drugs are cosubstrates of cytochrome P450 (CYP) 3A and MDR1; furthermore, their disposition is markedly affected by pretreatment with inducing agents, including St John's wort. Such drug interactions reflect induction of both proteins through a common mechanism involving the steroid X receptor/pregnane X receptor. However, the relative contributions of enhanced metabolism and efflux transport to the overall induction process are unknown.
Methods: The effects of 12 days' pretreatment with St John's wort on the disposition of selected in vivo probe drugs were determined in 21 young healthy subjects. Midazolam after oral and intravenous administration was used to assess CYP3A activity in both the intestinal epithelium and the liver, whereas the disposition of fexofenadine after an oral dose was assumed to be a measure of MDR1 function, and the oral plasma concentration-time profile of cyclosporine (INN, ciclosporin) was considered to reflect both CYP3A and MDR1 activities.
Results: St John's wort markedly affected the plasma concentration-time profiles of all of the drugs, with associated increases in their clearance. With midazolam, the enhancement was considerably less after intravenous administration (approximately 1.5-fold) than after oral administration (approximately 2.7-fold), and estimated intestinal and hepatic extraction ratios were higher by approximately 1.2- to 1.4-fold. By contrast, the oral clearances of fexofenadine and cyclosporine were equally increased by approximately 1.6-fold and 1.9-fold, respectively; these changes were both statistically less than for midazolam's oral clearance and greater than its estimated intestinal extraction.
Conclusions: Although the disposition of all 3 drugs was altered by St John's wort, the extent of induction measured by oral clearance was different with CYP3A activity (midazolam), apparently increasing more than MDR1 function (fexofenadine), whereas with cyclosporine the change in oral clearance appeared to be more closely associated with the increase in MDR1 rather than CYP3A, despite the fact that both proteins are importantly involved in its disposition. These discordances indicate that, although a common molecular mechanism may be involved, the quantitative aspects of induction are complex and depend on the particular drug and the relative contributions of CYP3A and MDR1 in its disposition.