Mechanistic investigation of the negative food effect of modified release zolpidem

Eur J Pharm Sci. 2017 May 1;102:284-298. doi: 10.1016/j.ejps.2017.03.011. Epub 2017 Mar 10.


Aims: When administered orally as either an immediate or modified release dosage form, zolpidem demonstrates a negative food effect, i.e. decrease in Cmax and AUC. The aim of the study was to arrive at a better understanding of the absorption of this BCS class I compound in vivo and to simulate the observed plasma profiles using in vitro and in silico methods.

Methods: Pharmacokinetic profiles of zolpidem are presented from a bioavailability (8mg intravenous; 10mg immediate release Stilnox®; 10mg and 12.5mg modified release Ambien® CR) and from a food effect study (12.5mg modified release Ambien® CR). The dissolution behavior of the 12.5mg strength was investigated using compendial methods in the USP apparatus II and using biorelevant methods in the USP apparatus III and IV. The mean plasma profiles as well as selected individual plasma profiles were simulated with Simcyp® and GastroPlus™. The absorption behavior was additionally investigated using the Qgut model, which entails algebraic deconvolution of all individual profiles, incorporating both first pass gut and liver extraction.

Results: It was possible to simulate the mean plasma profiles using a "middle-out" approach, based on in vitro data combined with pharmacokinetic parameters obtained after intravenous administration, using PBPK software (Simcyp® and GastroPlus™), resulting in average fold error (AFE) values <1.5. Deconvolution verified that the in vivo absorption rate from the modified release formulation is controlled by the formulation in the fasted state, whereas in the fed state, the absorption rate is mainly controlled by gastric emptying. One-stage in vitro tests suggested that interactions with meal components, resulting in incomplete release, may be the source of the negative food effect for both the immediate and modified release formulations.

Conclusions: The present study demonstrated that a combination of biorelevant dissolution testing with modeling approaches enables a mechanistic understanding of the absorption of zolpidem from various formulations and can serve as a useful biopharmaceutical approach for the development of modified release solid oral dosage forms.

Keywords: Biorelevant dissolution testing; Deconvolution; Food effects; PBPK modeling; Qgut; USP apparatus III (BioDis); USP apparatus IV (flow-through cell); Zolpidem.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Biological Availability
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Drug Liberation
  • Fasting / blood
  • Fasting / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Food-Drug Interactions*
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / blood
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / chemistry
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / pharmacokinetics*
  • Intestinal Absorption
  • Male
  • Milk
  • Models, Biological
  • Pyridines / blood
  • Pyridines / chemistry
  • Pyridines / pharmacokinetics*
  • Serum Albumin, Bovine
  • Software
  • Young Adult
  • Zolpidem


  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Pyridines
  • Serum Albumin, Bovine
  • Zolpidem