Population pharmacokinetics and clinical response for artemether-lumefantrine in pregnant and nonpregnant women with uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria in Tanzania

Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2014 Aug;58(8):4583-92. doi: 10.1128/AAC.02595-14. Epub 2014 May 27.


Artemether-lumefantrine (AL) is the first-line treatment for uncomplicated malaria in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. Its efficacy during pregnancy has recently been challenged due to altered pharmacokinetic (PK) properties in this vulnerable group. The aim of this study was to determine the PK profile of AL in pregnant and nonpregnant women and assess their therapeutic outcome. Thirty-three pregnant women and 22 nonpregnant women with malaria were treated with AL (80/480 mg) twice daily for 3 days. All patients provided five venous plasma samples for drug quantification at random times over 7 days. Inter- and intraindividual variability was assessed, and the effects of covariates were quantified using a nonlinear mixed-effects modeling approach (NONMEM). A one-compartment model with first-order absorption and elimination with linear metabolism from drug to metabolite fitted the data best for both arthemether (AM) and lumefantrine (LF) and their metabolites. Pregnancy status and diarrhea showed a significant influence on LF PK. The relative bioavailability of lumefantrine and its metabolism rate into desmethyl-lumefantrine were, respectively, 34% lower and 78% higher in pregnant women than in nonpregnant patients. The overall PCR-uncorrected treatment failure rates were 18% in pregnant women and 5% in nonpregnant women (odds ratio [OR] = 4.04; P value of 0.22). A high median day 7 lumefantrine concentration was significantly associated with adequate clinical and parasitological response (P = 0.03). The observed reduction in the relative bioavailability of lumefantrine in pregnant women may explain the higher treatment failure in this group, mostly due to lower posttreatment prophylaxis. Hence, a modified treatment regimen of malaria in pregnancy should be considered.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antimalarials / blood
  • Antimalarials / pharmacokinetics*
  • Antimalarials / pharmacology
  • Artemether, Lumefantrine Drug Combination
  • Artemisinins / blood
  • Artemisinins / pharmacokinetics*
  • Artemisinins / pharmacology
  • Biological Availability
  • Biotransformation
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Drug Combinations
  • Ethanolamines / blood
  • Ethanolamines / pharmacokinetics*
  • Ethanolamines / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Fluorenes / blood
  • Fluorenes / pharmacokinetics*
  • Fluorenes / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Malaria, Falciparum / drug therapy*
  • Malaria, Falciparum / parasitology
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / drug effects*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / physiology
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Second
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Failure


  • Antimalarials
  • Artemether, Lumefantrine Drug Combination
  • Artemisinins
  • Drug Combinations
  • Ethanolamines
  • Fluorenes