Aims: A clinically important interaction between the cardiac glycoside digoxin and the antibiotic clarithromycin has been suggested in earlier reports. The aim of this study was to investigate the extent of the interaction and the relative contribution of different mechanisms.
Methods: In a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind cross-over design single oral doses of 0.75 mg digoxin with oral coadministration of placebo or 250 mg clarithromycin twice daily for 3 days were administered to 12 healthy men. Additionally, three of the subjects received single intravenous doses of 0.01 mg x kg(-1) digoxin with oral placebo or clarithromycin. Digoxin plasma and urine concentrations were determined by a highly sensitive radioimmunoassay.
Results: Oral coadministration of clarithromycin resulted in a 1.7-fold increase of the area under the digoxin plasma concentration-time curve [mean AUC(0,24) +/- SD 23 +/- 5.2 vs. 14 +/- 2.9 microg x L(-1) x h; 95% confidence interval (CI) on the difference 7.0, 12; P = 0.002] and in a reduction of the nonglomerular renal clearance of digoxin [mean ClRng(0, 24) +/- SD 34 +/- 39 vs. 57 +/- 41 mL min-1; 95% CI on the difference 7.2, 45; P = 0.03]. The ratios of mean digoxin plasma concentrations with and without clarithromycin were highest during the absorption period of clarithromycin. After intravenous administration digoxin AUC(0,24) increased only 1.2-fold during coadministration of clarithromycin.
Conclusions: Increased oral bioavailability and reduced nonglomerular renal clearance of digoxin both contribute to the interaction between digoxin and clarithromycin, probably due to inhibition of intestinal and renal P-glycoprotein.