Pharmacokinetics of dipeptidylpeptidase-4 inhibitors

Diabetes Obes Metab. 2010 Aug;12(8):648-58. doi: 10.1111/j.1463-1326.2010.01212.x.


Type 2 diabetes (T2DM) is a complex disease combining defects in insulin secretion and insulin action. New compounds have been developed for improving glucose-induced insulin secretion and glucose control, without inducing hypoglycaemia or weight gain. Dipeptidylpeptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitors are new oral glucose-lowering agents, so-called incretin enhancers, which may be used as monotherapy or in combination with other antidiabetic compounds. Sitagliptin, vildaglipin and saxagliptin are already on the market in many countries, either as single agents or in fixed-dose combined formulations with metformin. Other DPP-4 inhibitors, such as alogliptin and linagliptin, are currently in late phase of development. The present paper summarizes and compares the main pharmacokinetics (PK) properties, that is, absorption, distribution, metabolism and elimination, of these five DPP-4 inhibitors. Available data were obtained in clinical trials performed in healthy young male subjects, patients with T2DM, and patients with either renal insufficiency or hepatic impairment. PK characteristics were generally similar in young healthy subjects and in middle-aged overweight patients with diabetes. All together gliptins have a good oral bioavailability which is not significantly influenced by food intake. PK/pharmacodynamics characteristics, that is, sufficiently prolonged half-life and sustained DPP-4 enzyme inactivation, generally allow one single oral administration per day for the management of T2DM; the only exception is vildagliptin for which a twice-daily administration is recommended because of a shorter half-life. DPP-4 inhibitors are in general not substrates for cytochrome P450 (except saxagliptin that is metabolized via CYP 3A4/A5) and do not act as inducers or inhibitors of this system. Several metabolites have been documented but most of them are inactive; however, the main metabolite of saxagliptin also exerts a significant DPP-4 inhibition and is half as potent as the parent compound. Renal excretion is the most important elimination pathway, except for linagliptin whose metabolism in the liver appears to be predominant. PK properties of gliptins, combined with their good safety profile, explain why no dose adjustment is necessary in elderly patients or in patients with mild to moderate hepatic impairment. As far as patients with renal impairment are concerned, significant increases in drug exposure for sitagliptin and saxagliptin have been reported so that appropriate reductions in daily dosages are recommended according to estimated glomerular filtration rate. The PK characteristics of DPP-4 inhibitors suggest that these compounds are not exposed to a high risk of drug-drug interactions. However, the daily dose of saxagliptin should be reduced when coadministered with potent CYP 3A4 inhibitors. In conclusion, besides their pharmacodynamic properties leading to effective glucose-lowering effect without inducing hypoglycaemia or weight gain, DPP-4 inhibitors show favourable PK properties, which contribute to a good efficacy/safety ratio for the management of T2DM in clinical practice.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adamantane / analogs & derivatives*
  • Adamantane / pharmacokinetics
  • Adamantane / therapeutic use
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy*
  • Dipeptides / pharmacokinetics*
  • Dipeptides / therapeutic use
  • Dipeptidyl-Peptidase IV Inhibitors / pharmacokinetics*
  • Dipeptidyl-Peptidase IV Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Drug Interactions
  • Female
  • Half-Life
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / pharmacokinetics*
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Male
  • Nitriles / pharmacokinetics*
  • Nitriles / therapeutic use
  • Pyrazines / pharmacokinetics*
  • Pyrazines / therapeutic use
  • Pyrrolidines / pharmacokinetics*
  • Pyrrolidines / therapeutic use
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Sitagliptin Phosphate
  • Triazoles / pharmacokinetics*
  • Triazoles / therapeutic use
  • Vildagliptin


  • Dipeptides
  • Dipeptidyl-Peptidase IV Inhibitors
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Nitriles
  • Pyrazines
  • Pyrrolidines
  • Triazoles
  • saxagliptin
  • Vildagliptin
  • Adamantane
  • Sitagliptin Phosphate