The limit for possible survival after extremely preterm birth has steadily improved and consequently, more premature neonates with increasingly lower gestational age at birth now require care. This specialized care often include intensive pharmacological treatment, yet there is currently insufficient knowledge of gestational age dependent differences in drug metabolism. This potentially puts the preterm neonates at risk of receiving sub-optimal drug doses with a subsequent increased risk of adverse or insufficient drug effects, and often pediatricians are forced to prescribe medication as off-label or even off-science. In this review, we present some of the particularities of drug disposition and metabolism in preterm neonates. We highlight the challenges in pharmacometrics studies on hepatic drug metabolism in preterm and particularly extremely (less than 28 weeks of gestation) preterm neonates by conducting a scoping review of published literature. We find that >40% of included studies failed to report a clear distinction between term and preterm children in the presentation of results making direct interpretation for preterm neonates difficult. We present summarized findings of pharmacokinetic studies done on the major CYP sub-systems, but formal meta analyses were not possible due the overall heterogeneous approaches to measuring the phase I and II pathways metabolism in preterm neonates, often with use of opportunistic sampling. We find this to be a testament to the practical and ethical challenges in measuring pharmacokinetic activity in preterm neonates. The future calls for optimized designs in pharmacometrics studies, including PK/PD modeling-methods and other sample reducing techniques. Future studies should also preferably be a collaboration between neonatologists and clinical pharmacologists.
Keywords: cytochrome P-450 enzyme system; infant; pharmaceutical preparations; pharmacokinetics; premature.
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