Background: The duration of action of the immediate-release formulation of methylphenidate hydrochloride is short (3 to 4 hours), and 3 times daily dosing is thought to maximize effectiveness across a 12-hour day. The initial sustained-release formulations of methylphenidate had reduced efficacy compared with immediate-release methylphenidate and were not well accepted. Tachyphylaxis was hypothesized to account for the reduced effects, and an ascending drug delivery pattern was proposed to overcome this acute tolerance.
Methods: Children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder were evaluated in a laboratory school to characterize onset and duration of the effect of a variety of methylphenidate regimens. In a proof-of-concept study, an experimental ascending profile was established by an initial bolus followed by small increasing doses of immediate-release methylphenidate in capsules administered every 30 minutes for 8 hours. Two proof-of-product studies of a new oral once-a-day formulation to deliver methylphenidate by an osmotic pump process based on OROS (ALZA Corp, Mountain View, Calif) technology (hereafter referred to "OROS-methylphenidate") were conducted: a pharmacokinetic study and a pharmacodynamic study.
Results: The experimental ascending profile matched the effect of the standard regimen of methylphenidate, 3 times daily. In the pharmacokinetic study, OROS-methylphenidate treatment produced a rapid rise followed by increasing plasma concentrations that peaked 7 to 9 hours after administration. In the pharmacodynamic study, OROS-methylphenidate treatment matched the 3 times daily dosing of methylphenidate for onset and duration of efficacy.
Conclusions: These studies demonstrate the translation of a basic science finding (acute tolerance to clinical doses of methylphenidate) into clinical application (the selection of a new drug delivery pattern for methylphenidate). This approach produced a new product (OROS-methylphenidate or Concerta), which proved to have the predicted rapid onset (with 1-2 hours) and long duration of efficacy (10-12 hours) after a single administration in the morning.