Background: It is known that following chronic dosing with bupropion HCl active metabolites are present in plasma at levels that are several times higher than that of the parent drug, but the possible convulsive effects of the major metabolites are not known.
Methods: We investigated the convulsive liability and dose-response of the three major bupropion metabolites following intraperitoneal administration of single doses in female Swiss albino mice, namely erythrohydrobupropion HCl, threohydrobupropion HCl, and hydroxybupropion HCl. We compared these to bupropion HCl. The actual doses of the metabolites administered to mice (n = 120; 10 per dose group) were equimolar equivalents of bupropion HCl 25, 50 and 75 mg/kg. Post treatment, all animals were observed continuously for 2 h during which the number, time of onset, duration and intensity of convulsions were recorded. The primary outcome variable was the percentage of mice in each group who had a convulsion at each dose. Other outcome measures were the time to onset of convulsions, mean convulsions per mouse, and the duration and intensity of convulsions.
Results: All metabolites were associated with a greater percentage of seizures compared to bupropion, but the percentage of convulsions differed between metabolites. Hydroxybupropion HCl treatment induced the largest percentage of convulsing mice (100% at both 50 and 75 mg/kg) followed by threohydrobupropion HCl (50% and 100%), and then erythrohydrobupropion HCl (10% and 90%), compared to bupropion HCl (0% and 10%). Probit analysis also revealed the dose-response curves were significantly different (p < 0.0001) with CD50 values of 35, 50, 61 and 82 mg/kg, respectively for the four different treatments. Cox proportional hazards model results showed that bupropion HCl, erythrohydrobupropion HCl, and threohydrobupropion HCl were significantly less likely to induce convulsions within the 2-h post treatment observation period compared to hydroxybupropion HCl. The mean convulsions per mouse also showed the same dose-dependent and metabolite-dependent trends.
Conclusion: The demonstration of the dose-dependent and metabolite-dependent convulsive effects of bupropion metabolites is a novelty.