Formed and preformed metabolites: facts and comparisons

J Pharm Pharmacol. 2008 Oct;60(10):1247-75. doi: 10.1211/jpp.60.10.0001.


The administration of metabolites arising from new drug entities is often employed in drug discovery to investigate their associated toxicity. It is expected that administration of metabolites can predict the exposure of metabolites originating from the administration of precursor drug. Whether exact and meaningful information can be obtained from this has been a topic of debate. This communication summarizes observations and theoretical relationships based on physiological modelling for the liver, kidney and intestine, three major eliminating organs/tissues. Theoretical solutions based on physiological modelling of organs were solved, and the results suggest that deviations are expected. Here, examples of metabolite kinetics observed mostly in perfused organs that did not match predictions are provided. For the liver, discrepancies in fate between formed and preformed metabolites may be explained by the heterogeneity of enzymes, the presence of membrane barriers and whether transporters are involved. For the kidney, differences have been attributed to glomerular filtration of the preformed but not the formed metabolite. For the intestine, the complexity of segregated flows to the enterocyte and serosal layers and differences in metabolism due to the route of administration are addressed. Administration of the metabolite may or may not directly reflect the toxicity associated with drug use. However, kinetic data on the preformed metabolite will be extremely useful to develop a sound model for modelling and simulations; in-vitro evidence on metabolite handling at the target organ is also paramount. Subsequent modelling and simulation of metabolite data arising from a combined model based on both drug and preformed metabolite data are needed to improve predictions on the behaviours of formed metabolites.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Drug Information Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / administration & dosage
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism*
  • Pharmacokinetics*


  • Pharmaceutical Preparations