Objective: protein energy malnutrition (PEM) is a nutritional problem affecting many children world-wide. Its association with a wide spectrum of infections necessitates multiple drug therapies. A systematic review was performed to determine the effects of PEM on drug pharmacokinetics.
Methods: literature searches in the MEDLINE and EMBASE databases (January 1960 to December 2009) were performed. Malnutrition, undernutrition, underweight, protein-energy malnutrition, protein-calorie malnutrition, marasmus, marasmic-kwashiorkor or kwashiorkor was the medical subject heading (MeSH) descriptor used. Inclusion criteria were abstracts that assessed or discussed absorption, distribution, metabolism, elimination, clearance, pharmacokinetics or pharmacodynamics of drugs, except micronutrients and appetite-stimulating drugs.
Results: altogether, 41 publications were identified. A total of 34 drugs were studied. The absorption of 18 drugs was studied; the extent of absorption (AUC) was unaffected for 10 drugs. The plasma protein binding of 20 drugs was evaluated; it was significantly reduced for 12 drugs. The volume of distribution (Vd) of 13 drugs was evaluated; it was, however, unaffected for most of the drugs. The effect of PEM on total clearance and the half-life of drugs primarily metabolised by the liver was studied for 8 drugs. There was decreased total clearance and an associated increased half-life of 5 drugs. For 2 drugs (chloramphenicol and quinine), different degrees of PEM affected total clearance differently. The total clearance of six drugs primarily eliminated by the kidneys was studied; it was unaffected for four drugs, but significantly decreased for two drugs (cefoxitin and penicillin).
Conclusions: considering the proportion of children affected with PEM world-wide, there have been relatively few pharmacokinetic studies of drugs frequently used for their treatment. More studies are therefore required to establish the appropriate dose and safety of these drugs for PEM children. The studies need to recognise that PEM is a disease spectrum and should further look at the differential effects of kwashiorkor and marasmus on drug pharmacokinetics in children.