A population PK model for citalopram and its major metabolite, N-desmethyl citalopram, in rats

J Pharmacokinet Pharmacodyn. 2015 Dec;42(6):721-33. doi: 10.1007/s10928-015-9448-7. Epub 2015 Sep 22.


A population PK model was developed in order to simultaneously describe citalopram and its major metabolite, n-desmethyl citalopram, plasma concentrations in two different strain of rats after intravenous (IV) and oral (PO) administration of citalopram. Citalopram was administered to Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats at doses: 0.3, 1, 3, and 10 mg/kg IV and 10 mg/kg PO. The compound was dosed orally to Wistar rats at doses: 0.3, 1, 3, 10, 30 and 60 mg/kg. Plasma samples were collected for citalopram and metabolite. Pharmacokinetic analyses were conducted using NONMEM 7.2. Values below the quantification limit (BLQ < 0.1 ng/mL) were included in the analyses and treated as censored information. The disposition of citalopram was best described by a 3-compartment model and its desmethyl metabolite by a 2-compartment model. Several models for the absorption rate were explored (e.g. first, zero order and combined first and zero order absorption, Michaelis-Menten, lag time) in combination with dose and/or time dependent covariate effects. Dose dependent oral bioavailability properties were also identified in this analysis. Citalopram IV clearance and metabolite formation rate were adequately described as linear processes. Metabolite clearance was adequately described using a Michaelis-Menten clearance with different parameters depending on the strain. This analysis demonstrates a very complex absorption/metabolism process explaining the highly non-linear pharmacokinetics observed across all the doses. This is the first combined parent/metabolite population PK analysis in both SD and Wistar rats over a wide range of IV and PO dosages for citalopram, a compound that exhibits highly nonlinear oral pharmacokinetics in rats.

Keywords: Citalopram; Metabolite; N-desmethyl citalopram; NONMEM.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intravenous
  • Administration, Oral
  • Animals
  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation / administration & dosage
  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation / blood
  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation / pharmacokinetics*
  • Area Under Curve
  • Biological Availability
  • Biotransformation
  • Citalopram / administration & dosage
  • Citalopram / analogs & derivatives
  • Citalopram / blood
  • Citalopram / pharmacokinetics*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Metabolic Clearance Rate
  • Models, Animal
  • Models, Biological*
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • Nonlinear Dynamics
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / administration & dosage
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / blood
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors / pharmacokinetics*
  • Species Specificity


  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation
  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors
  • Citalopram
  • desmethylcitalopram