Plasma protein binding of drugs in the elderly

Clin Pharmacokinet. 1987 Jan;12(1):41-72. doi: 10.2165/00003088-198712010-00004.


Binding to plasma proteins can affect the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of drugs. Age is one of many factors which can affect plasma protein binding of drugs. Unfortunately, very few generalities can be drawn from the studies of the effect of age on protein binding. Whether age has an effect on protein binding is dependent not only on the drug, but also on the manner in which the study is conducted. Several studies involve patients with various disease states making assessment of the effect of age alone on protein binding difficult. Results of different studies on the same drug do not always agree--in one case finding no change in protein binding with age and in another, a significant increase or decrease in protein binding. Most drugs which exhibit increased binding (decreased free fraction) in elderly subjects are basic and tend to have a greater affinity for alpha 1-acid glycoprotein than for albumin. The list of drugs exhibiting decreased binding (increased free fraction) in the elderly is longer and includes both acidic and basic drugs. The impact of changes in protein binding with age is dependent on the magnitude of the change, on the pharmacokinetic characteristics of the drug and on its therapeutic index. Some changes, although statistically significant, are not likely to be of importance clinically. From the studies reviewed, the free fraction is changed by greater than 50% in the elderly for only a few drugs, e.g. acetazolamide, diflunisal, etomidate, naproxen, salicylate, valproate and zimeldine.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Blood Proteins / metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / blood*
  • Protein Binding


  • Blood Proteins
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations