Saturable first-pass kinetics of propranolol

J Clin Pharmacol. 1989 Mar;29(3):240-5. doi: 10.1002/j.1552-4604.1989.tb03320.x.


Reduced bioavailability (F) due to hepatic first-pass extraction of an oral dose (D) is a well-known pharmacokinetic phenomenon. An integrated solution for Michaelis-Menten kinetics of the first-pass effect is derived from the maximal metabolic rate (Vm), volume of distribution (Vd), first order absorption rate constant (ka), Michaelis constant (Km), and liver blood flow (Q). F = 1 - VmVd/kaD ln (1 + kaD/QKm) This equation for single dosage can also be extended to steady state kinetics after multiple dosing in which the amount of a drug present in the hepatic circulation is considered. According to the literature, the bioavailability of a single 80 mg oral dose of propranolol (F = 0.22) increases after multiple doses Fss = 0.36). Based on the first pass equations for single dosage and multiple dosing, the maximal metabolic rate (Vm = 0.043 mg l-1 h-1) corresponding to 310 mg per day and the Michaelis constant (Km = 0.10 mg/l) were calculated for propranolol. Incorporation of nonlinear plasma protein binding in this concept may explain the lack of threshold phenomenon for a single dose of less than 40 mg propranolol. Zero order absorption kinetics could explain why cumulation kinetics seem linear even at an excessive dosage of 960 mg propranolol per day. From these derivations it may be concluded that multiple dosing, increase in plasma protein binding, high absorption rate, and increased portal venous blood flow will increase bioavailability, whereas slow release formulations, fractional drug dosage, and saturable absorption kinetics will decrease bioavailability of first-pass drugs like propranolol.

MeSH terms

  • Absorption
  • Administration, Oral
  • Biological Availability
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Liver / metabolism*
  • Propranolol / administration & dosage
  • Propranolol / pharmacokinetics*


  • Propranolol