Pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics of inhaled iloprost, aerosolized by three different devices, in severe pulmonary hypertension

Chest. 2003 Oct;124(4):1294-304. doi: 10.1378/chest.124.4.1294.


Background: Inhalation of iloprost, a stable prostacyclin analog, is an effective therapy for pulmonary hypertension with few side effects. This approach may, however, be handicapped by limitations of currently available nebulization devices. We assessed whether the physical characterization of a device is sufficient to predict drug deposition and pharmacologic effects.

Methods: We investigated the effects of a standardized iloprost aerosol dose (5 micro g; inhaled within approximately 10 min) in 12 patients with severe pulmonary hypertension in a crossover design employing three well-characterized nebulizers. The nebulizers use different techniques to increase efficiency and alveolar targeting (Ilo-Neb/Aerotrap [Nebu-Tec; Elsenfeld, Germany], Ventstream [MedicAid; Bognor Regis, UK], and HaloLite [Profile Therapeutics; Bognor Regis, UK]). Measurements were performed using a Swan-Ganz catheter and determination of arterial iloprost plasma levels.

Results: During inhalation of iloprost, the pulmonary vascular resistance decreased substantially (baseline, approximately 1,250; decrease, - 35.5 to - 38.0%) and pulmonary artery pressure decreased substantially (baseline, approximately 58 mm Hg; decline, - 18.4 to -21.8%), whereas the systemic arterial pressure was largely unaffected. Cardiac output and mixed venous and arterial oxygen saturation displayed a marked increase. The pharmacodynamic profiles with the three devices were superimposable. Moreover, rapid entry of iloprost into the systemic circulation was noted, peaking immediately after termination of the inhalation maneuver, with very similar maximum serum concentrations (158 pg/mL, 155 pg/mL, and 157 pg/mL), and half-lives of serum levels (6.5 min, 9.4 min, and 7.7 min) for the three nebulizers, respectively. Interestingly, the "half-life" of the pharmacodynamic effects in the pulmonary vasculature (eg, decrease in pulmonary vascular resistance, ranging between 21 and 25 min) clearly outlasted this serum level-based pharmacokinetic half-life.

Conclusions: A standardized dose of aerosolized iloprost delivered by different nebulizer types induces comparable pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic responses. Pulmonary vasodilation, persisting after disappearance of the drug from the systemic circulation, supports the hypothesis that local drug deposition largely contributes to the preferential pulmonary vasodilation in response to inhaled iloprost.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Inhalation
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Equipment Design
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / drug therapy*
  • Iloprost / administration & dosage
  • Iloprost / pharmacology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nebulizers and Vaporizers*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Vasodilator Agents / administration & dosage
  • Vasodilator Agents / pharmacology*


  • Vasodilator Agents
  • Iloprost