Phenobarbital population pharmacokinetics across the pediatric age spectrum

Epilepsia. 2018 Jul;59(7):1327-1333. doi: 10.1111/epi.14447. Epub 2018 Jun 13.


Objective: Phenobarbital is frequently used in pediatric patients for treatment and prophylaxis of seizures. Pharmacokinetic data for this patient population is lacking and would assist in dosing decisions.

Methods: A retrospective population pharmacokinetic analysis was designed for all pediatric patients <19 years of age initiated on phenobarbital at our institution from January 2011 to June 2017. Patients were included if they were initiated on intravenous or enteral phenobarbital for treatment or prophylaxis of seizures and had a serum phenobarbital concentration monitored while an inpatient. Data collection included the following: age, weight, height, gestational age, core body temperature, serum creatinine, blood urea nitrogen, aspartase aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase, urine output over the prior 12 hours, phenobarbital doses and serum concentrations, and potential drug-drug interactions. Descriptive statistical methods were used to summarize the data. Pharmacokinetic analysis was performed with NONMEM and simulation was performed for doses of 10, 20, 30, and 40 mg kg-1 dose-1 , iv, followed by enteral doses of 3, 4, 5, and 6 mg kg-1 d-1 .

Results: A total of 355 patients (50.3% male, median gestational age 39 weeks (interquartile range [IQR] 35, 40), median age 0.28 years (IQR 0.06, 0.82). Median phenobarbital dose was enteral = 2.6 (IQR 1.9, 3.9) mg kg-1 dose-1 ; intravenous = 2.6 (IQR 2.2, 4.9) mg kg-1 dose-1 ) and mean serum concentration was 41.1 ± 23.9 mg/L at median 6.5 (IQR 2.9, 11.1) hours after a dose. A one-compartment proportional error model best fit the data where clearance and volume of distribution were allometrically scaled using fat-free mass. Significant covariates included serum creatinine, postmenstrual age, and drug-drug interactions on clearance, and age in years on volume of distribution.

Significance: Phenobarbital dosing of 30 mg kg-1 dose-1 ,iv, followed by 4 mg kg-1 d-1 had the highest probability of attaining a therapeutic concentration at 7 days. Postmenstrual age and drug-drug interactions should be incorporated into dosing decisions.

Keywords: NONMEM; pediatrics; phenobarbital; population pharmacokinetics.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adolescent
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Interactions
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infusions, Intravenous
  • Metabolic Clearance Rate / physiology
  • Phenobarbital / pharmacokinetics*
  • Phenobarbital / therapeutic use*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Seizures / blood*
  • Seizures / drug therapy*
  • Young Adult


  • Phenobarbital