Clinical pharmacokinetics of imatinib

Clin Pharmacokinet. 2005;44(9):879-94. doi: 10.2165/00003088-200544090-00001.


Imatinib is a potent and selective inhibitor of the protein tyrosine kinase Bcr-Abl, platelet-derived growth factor receptors (PDGFRalpha and PDGFRbeta) and KIT. Imatinib is approved for the treatment of chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML) and gastrointestinal stromal tumour (GIST), which have dysregulated activity of an imatinib-sensitive kinase as the underlying pathogenetic feature. Pharmacokinetic studies of imatinib in healthy volunteers and patients with CML, GIST and other cancers show that orally administered imatinib is well absorbed, and has an absolute bioavailability of 98% irrespective of oral dosage form (solution, capsule, tablet) or dosage strength (100 mg, 400 mg). Food has no relevant impact on the rate or extent of bioavailability. The terminal elimination half-life is approximately 18 hours. Imatinib plasma concentrations predictably increase by 2- to 3-fold when reaching steady state with 400mg once-daily administration, to 2.6 +/- 0.8 microg/mL at peak and 1.2 +/- 0.8 microg/mL at trough, exceeding the 0.5 microg/mL (1 micromol/L) concentrations needed for tyrosine kinase inhibition in vitro and leading to normalisation of haematological parameters in the large majority of patients with CML irrespective of baseline white blood cell count. Imatinib is approximately 95% bound to human plasma proteins, mainly albumin and alpha1-acid glycoprotein. The drug is eliminated predominantly via the bile in the form of metabolites, one of which (CGP 74588) shows comparable pharmacological activity to the parent drug. The faecal to urinary excretion ratio is approximately 5:1. Imatinib is metabolised mainly by the cytochrome P450 (CYP) 3A4 or CYP3A5 and can competitively inhibit the metabolism of drugs that are CYP3A4 or CYP3A5 substrates. Interactions may occur between imatinib and inhibitors or inducers of these enzymes, leading to changes in the plasma concentration of imatinib as well as coadministered drugs. Hepatic and renal dysfunction, and the presence of liver metastases, may result in more variable and increased exposure to the drug, although typically not necessitating dosage adjustment. Age (range 18-70 years), race, sex and bodyweight do not appreciably impact the pharmacokinetics of imatinib.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Absorption
  • Animals
  • Benzamides
  • Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Imatinib Mesylate
  • Metabolic Clearance Rate
  • Microdialysis
  • Piperazines / pharmacokinetics*
  • Pyrimidines / pharmacokinetics*
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Benzamides
  • Piperazines
  • Pyrimidines
  • Imatinib Mesylate