Identification of intestinal loss of a drug through physiologically based pharmacokinetic simulation of plasma concentration-time profiles

Clin Pharmacokinet. 2008;47(4):245-59. doi: 10.2165/00003088-200847040-00003.


Background and objective: Despite recent advances in understanding of the role of the gut as a metabolizing organ, recognition of gut wall metabolism and/or other factors contributing to intestinal loss of a compound has been a challenging task due to the lack of well characterized methods to distinguish it from first-pass hepatic extraction. The implications of identifying intestinal loss of a compound in drug discovery and development can be enormous. Physiologically based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) simulations of pharmacokinetic profiles provide a simple, reliable and cost-effective way to understand the mechanisms underlying pharmacokinetic processes. The purpose of this article is to demonstrate the application of PBPK simulations in bringing to light intestinal loss of orally administered drugs, using two example compounds: verapamil and an in-house compound that is no longer in development (referred to as compound A in this article).

Methods: A generic PBPK model, built in-house using MATLAB software and incorporating absorption, metabolism, distribution, biliary and renal elimination models, was employed for simulation of concentration-time profiles. Modulation of intrinsic hepatic clearance and tissue distribution parameters in the generic PBPK model was done to achieve a good fit to the observed intravenous pharmacokinetic profiles of the compounds studied. These optimized clearance and distribution parameters are expected to be invariant across different routes of administration, as long as the kinetics are linear, and were therefore employed to simulate the oral profiles of the compounds. For compounds with reasonably good solubility and permeability, an area under the concentration-time curve for the simulated oral profile that far exceeded the observed would indicate some kind of loss in the intestine.

Results: PBPK simulations applied to compound A showed substantial loss of the compound in the gastrointestinal tract in humans but not in rats. This accounted for the lower bioavailability of the compound in humans than in rats. PBPK simulations of verapamil identified gut wall metabolism, well established in the literature, and showed large interspecies differences with respect to both gut wall metabolism and drug-induced delays in gastric emptying.

Conclusions: Mechanistic insights provided by PBPK simulations can be very valuable in answering vital questions in drug discovery and development. However, such applications of PBPK models are limited by the lack of accurate inputs for clearance and distribution. This article demonstrates a successful application of PBPK simulations to identify and quantify intestinal loss of two model compounds in rats and humans. The limitation of inaccurate inputs for the clearance and distribution parameters was overcome by optimizing these parameters through fitting intravenous profiles. The study also demonstrated that the large interspecies differences associated with gut wall metabolism and gastric emptying, evident for the compounds studied, make animal model extrapolations to humans unreliable. It is therefore important to do PBPK simulations of human pharmacokinetic profiles to understand the relevance of intestinal loss of a compound in humans.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Area Under Curve
  • Biological Availability
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Models, Biological*
  • Pharmacokinetics*
  • Species Specificity
  • Verapamil / pharmacokinetics


  • Verapamil