Simultaneous population pharmacokinetic modelling of plasma and intracellular PBMC miltefosine concentrations in New World cutaneous leishmaniasis and exploration of exposure-response relationships

J Antimicrob Chemother. 2018 Aug 1;73(8):2104-2111. doi: 10.1093/jac/dky143.


Objectives: Leishmania parasites reside within macrophages and the direct target of antileishmanial drugs is therefore intracellular. We aimed to characterize the intracellular PBMC miltefosine kinetics by developing a population pharmacokinetic (PK) model simultaneously describing plasma and intracellular PBMC pharmacokinetics. Furthermore, we explored exposure-response relationships and simulated alternative dosing regimens.

Patients and methods: A population PK model was developed with NONMEM, based on 339 plasma and 194 PBMC miltefosine concentrations from Colombian cutaneous leishmaniasis patients [29 children (2-12 years old) and 22 adults] receiving 1.8-2.5 mg/kg/day miltefosine for 28 days.

Results: A three-compartment model with miltefosine distribution into an intracellular PBMC effect compartment best fitted the data. Intracellular PBMC distribution was described with an intracellular-to-plasma concentration ratio of 2.17 [relative standard error (RSE) 4.9%] and intracellular distribution rate constant of 1.23 day-1 (RSE 14%). In exploring exposure-response relationships, both plasma and intracellular model-based exposure estimates significantly influenced probability of cure. A proposed PK target for the area under the plasma concentration-time curve (day 0-28) of >535 mg·day/L corresponded to >95% probability of cure. In linear dosing simulations, 18.3% of children compared with 2.8% of adults failed to reach 535 mg·day/L. In children, this decreased to 1.8% after allometric dosing simulation.

Conclusions: The developed population PK model described the rate and extent of miltefosine distribution from plasma into PBMCs. Miltefosine exposure was significantly related to probability of cure in this cutaneous leishmaniasis patient population. We propose an exploratory PK target, which should be validated in a larger cohort study.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Colombia
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leishmaniasis, Cutaneous / drug therapy*
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Statistical
  • Phosphorylcholine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Phosphorylcholine / pharmacokinetics
  • Plasma
  • Young Adult


  • Phosphorylcholine
  • miltefosine