Metabolism and interactions of antileprosy drugs

Biochem Pharmacol. 2020 Jul;177:113993. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2020.113993. Epub 2020 Apr 24.


Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease caused my Mycobacterium leprae that primarily affects peripheral nervous system and extremities and is prevalent in tropical countries. Treatment for leprosy with multidrug regimens is very effective compared to monotherapy especially in multibacillary cases. The three major antileprosy drugs currently in use are 4, 4'-diaminodiphenyl sulfone (DDS, dapsone), rifampicin, and clofazimine. During multidrug therapy, the potent antibiotic rifampicin induces the metabolism of dapsone, which results in decreased plasma half-life of dapsone and its metabolites. Furthermore, rifampicin induces its own metabolism and decreases its half-life during monotherapy. Rifampicin upregulates several hepatic microsomal drug-metabolizing enzymes, especially cytochrome P450 (CYP) family that in turn induce the metabolism of dapsone. Clofazimine lacks significant induction of any drug-metabolizing enzyme including CYP family and does not interact with dapsone metabolism. Rifampicin does not induce clofazimine metabolism during combination treatment. Administration of dapsone in the acetylated form (acedapsone) can release the drug slowly into circulation up to 75 days and could be useful for the effective treatment of paucibacillary cases along with rifampicin. This review summarizes the major aspects of antileprosy drug metabolism and drug interactions and the role of cytochrome P450 family of drug metabolizing enzymes, especially CYP3A4 during multidrug regimens for the treatment of leprosy.

Keywords: Antileprosy drugs; Clofazimine; Cytochrome P450; Dapsone; Metabolic interactions; Rifampicin.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acedapsone / blood*
  • Acedapsone / pharmacokinetics
  • Acedapsone / pharmacology
  • Biological Availability
  • Biotransformation
  • Clofazimine / blood*
  • Clofazimine / pharmacokinetics
  • Clofazimine / pharmacology
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP3A / metabolism*
  • Dapsone / blood*
  • Dapsone / pharmacokinetics
  • Dapsone / pharmacology
  • Drug Interactions
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Half-Life
  • Humans
  • Leprostatic Agents / blood*
  • Leprostatic Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Leprostatic Agents / pharmacology
  • Leprosy / blood
  • Leprosy / drug therapy*
  • Leprosy / microbiology
  • Leprosy / pathology
  • Metabolic Clearance Rate
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways / physiology
  • Mycobacterium leprae / drug effects
  • Mycobacterium leprae / growth & development
  • Mycobacterium leprae / pathogenicity
  • Rifampin / blood*
  • Rifampin / pharmacokinetics
  • Rifampin / pharmacology


  • Leprostatic Agents
  • Acedapsone
  • Dapsone
  • Clofazimine
  • Cytochrome P-450 CYP3A
  • CYP3A4 protein, human
  • Rifampin