First dose in children: physiological insights into pharmacokinetic scaling approaches and their implications in paediatric drug development

J Pharmacokinet Pharmacodyn. 2012 Apr;39(2):195-203. doi: 10.1007/s10928-012-9241-9. Epub 2012 Feb 5.


Dose selection for "first in children" trials often relies on scaling of the pharmacokinetics from adults to children. Commonly used approaches are physiologically-based pharmacokinetic modeling (PBPK) and allometric scaling (AS) in combination with maturation of clearance for early life. In this investigation, a comparison of the two approaches was performed to provide insight into the physiological meaning of AS maturation functions and their interchangeability. The analysis focused on the AS maturation functions established using paracetamol and morphine paediatric data after intravenous administration. First, the estimated AS maturation functions were compared with the maturation functions of the liver enzymes as used in the PBPK models. Second, absolute clearance predictions using AS in combination with maturation functions were compared to PBPK predictions for hypothetical drugs with different pharmacokinetic properties. The results of this investigation showed that AS maturation functions do not solely represent ontogeny of enzyme activity, but aggregate multiple pharmacokinetic properties, as for example extraction ratio and lipophilicity (log P). Especially in children younger than 1 year, predictions using AS in combination with maturation functions and PBPK were not interchangeable. This highlights the necessity of investigating methodological uncertainty to allow a proper estimation of the "first dose in children" and assessment of its risk and benefits.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Acetaminophen / administration & dosage
  • Acetaminophen / pharmacokinetics*
  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Discovery / methods
  • Drug Discovery / trends*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Metabolic Clearance Rate / drug effects
  • Metabolic Clearance Rate / physiology
  • Morphine / administration & dosage
  • Morphine / pharmacokinetics*


  • Acetaminophen
  • Morphine