Artemether-Lumefantrine Pharmacokinetics and Clinical Response Are Minimally Altered in Pregnant Ugandan Women Treated for Uncomplicated Falciparum Malaria

Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 2015 Dec 14;60(3):1274-82. doi: 10.1128/AAC.01605-15.


Artemether-lumefantrine is a first-line regimen for the treatment of uncomplicated malaria during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. Previous studies have reported changes in the pharmacokinetics and clinical outcomes following treatment with artemether-lumefantrine in pregnant women compared to nonpregnant adults; however, the results are inconclusive. We conducted a study in rural Uganda to compare the pharmacokinetics of artemether-lumefantrine and the treatment responses between 30 pregnant women and 30 nonpregnant adults with uncomplicated Plasmodium falciparum malaria. All participants were uninfected with HIV, treated with a six-dose regimen of artemether-lumefantrine, and monitored clinically for 42 days. The pharmacokinetics of artemether, its metabolite dihydroartemisinin, and lumefantrine were evaluated for 21 days following treatment. We found no significant differences in the overall pharmacokinetics of artemether, dihydroartemisinin, or lumefantrine in a direct comparison of pregnant women to nonpregnant adults, except for a statistically significant but small difference in the terminal elimination half-lives of both dihydroartemisinin and lumefantrine. There were seven PCR-confirmed reinfections (5 pregnant and 2 nonpregnant participants). The observation of a shorter terminal half-life for lumefantrine may have contributed to a higher frequency of reinfection or a shorter posttreatment prophylactic period in pregnant women than in nonpregnant adults. While the comparable overall pharmacokinetic exposure is reassuring, studies are needed to further optimize antimalarial efficacy in pregnant women, particularly in high-transmission settings and because of emerging drug resistance. (This study is registered at under registration no. NCT01717885.).

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antimalarials / adverse effects
  • Antimalarials / pharmacokinetics*
  • Antimalarials / therapeutic use
  • Artemether
  • Artemisinins / adverse effects
  • Artemisinins / pharmacokinetics*
  • Artemisinins / therapeutic use
  • Cohort Studies
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Ethanolamines / adverse effects
  • Ethanolamines / pharmacokinetics*
  • Ethanolamines / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Fluorenes / adverse effects
  • Fluorenes / pharmacokinetics*
  • Fluorenes / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Lumefantrine
  • Malaria, Falciparum / drug therapy*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Parasitic / drug therapy*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Uganda
  • Young Adult


  • Antimalarials
  • Artemisinins
  • Ethanolamines
  • Fluorenes
  • dihydroartemisinin
  • Artemether
  • Lumefantrine

Associated data