Objectives: Characterization of the pharmacokinetic properties of the enantiomers of primaquine and carboxyprimaquine following administration of racemic primaquine given alone and in combination with commonly used antimalarial drugs.
Methods: Enantiomeric pharmacokinetics were evaluated in 49 healthy adult volunteers enrolled in three randomized cross-over studies in which a single dose of primaquine was given alone and then, after a suitable washout period, in combination with chloroquine, dihydroartemisinin/piperaquine or pyronaridine/artesunate. Non-linear mixed-effects modelling was used to characterize pharmacokinetics and assess the impact of drug-drug interactions.
Results: The volume of distribution of racemic primaquine was decreased by a median (95% CI) of 22.0% (2.24%-39.9%), 24.0% (15.0%-31.5%) and 25.7% (20.3%-31.1%) when co-administered with chloroquine, dihydroartemisinin/piperaquine and pyronaridine/artesunate, respectively. The oral clearance of primaquine was decreased by a median of 19.1% (14.5%-22.8%) when co-administered with pyronaridine/artesunate. These interactions were enantiospecific with a relatively higher effect on (+)-S-primaquine than on (-)-R-primaquine. No drug-drug interaction effects were seen on the pharmacokinetics of either carboxyprimaquine enantiomer.
Conclusions: Population pharmacokinetic models characterizing the enantiospecific properties of primaquine were developed successfully. Exposure to primaquine, particularly to the (+)-S-primaquine but not the carboxy metabolites, increased by up to 30% when co-administered with commonly used antimalarial drugs. A better mechanistic understanding of primaquine metabolism is required for assessment of its efficacy and haematological toxicity in humans.