Clinical Pharmacokinetics of Systemically Administered Antileishmanial Drugs

Clin Pharmacokinet. 2018 Feb;57(2):151-176. doi: 10.1007/s40262-017-0570-0.


This review describes the pharmacokinetic properties of the systemically administered antileishmanial drugs pentavalent antimony, paromomycin, pentamidine, miltefosine and amphotericin B (AMB), including their absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion and potential drug-drug interactions. This overview provides an understanding of their clinical pharmacokinetics, which could assist in rationalising and optimising treatment regimens, especially in combining multiple antileishmanial drugs in an attempt to increase efficacy and shorten treatment duration. Pentavalent antimony pharmacokinetics are characterised by rapid renal excretion of unchanged drug and a long terminal half-life, potentially due to intracellular conversion to trivalent antimony. Pentamidine is the only antileishmanial drug metabolised by cytochrome P450 enzymes. Paromomycin is excreted by the kidneys unchanged and is eliminated fastest of all antileishmanial drugs. Miltefosine pharmacokinetics are characterized by a long terminal half-life and extensive accumulation during treatment. AMB pharmacokinetics differ per drug formulation, with a fast renal and faecal excretion of AMB deoxylate but a much slower clearance of liposomal AMB resulting in an approximately ten-fold higher exposure. AMB and pentamidine pharmacokinetics have never been evaluated in leishmaniasis patients. Studies linking exposure to effect would be required to define target exposure levels in dose optimisation but have only been performed for miltefosine. Limited research has been conducted on exposure at the drug's site of action, such as skin exposure in cutaneous leishmaniasis patients after systemic administration. Pharmacokinetic data on special patient populations such as HIV co-infected patients are mostly lacking. More research in these areas will help improve clinical outcomes by informed dosing and combination of drugs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antiprotozoal Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Antiprotozoal Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Coinfection / epidemiology
  • Drug Interactions*
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • Half-Life
  • Humans
  • Leishmaniasis / drug therapy*


  • Antiprotozoal Agents