Clinical pharmacokinetics of cimetidine

Clin Pharmacokinet. Nov-Dec 1983;8(6):463-95. doi: 10.2165/00003088-198308060-00001.


Cimetidine is the first histamine H2-receptor antagonist with wide clinical application. It is a weak base and a highly water-soluble compound which can be measured in biological fluids by a number of high-pressure liquid chromatographic methods. Following intravenous administration, the plasma concentration profile follows multicompartmental characteristics. The total systemic clearance is high (500 to 600 ml/min) and is mainly determined by renal clearance. The volume of distribution (Vd beta or Vdss) is of the order of 1 L/kg and this about equals bodyweight. Elimination half-life is approximately 2 hours. Following oral administration of cimetidine, 2 plasma concentration peaks are frequently observed, probably due to discontinuous absorption in the intestine. The absolute bioavailability in healthy subjects is about 60%. In patients with peptic ulcer disease, bioavailability is around 70%, but the variation is much greater than in healthy subjects. Absorption and clearance of cimetidine are linear after 200 and 800mg doses. Mean steady-state plasma concentrations on a standard 1000mg daily dose are 1.0 microgram/ml (range 0.64-1.64 micrograms/ml) and are reproducible after treatment periods of up to 2 years. When taken with food, the extent of absorption is unaltered, but a delay occurs and only 1 peak in the plasma concentration curve is apparent. Partial gastrectomy (Billroth I, II) causes an increase in systemic availability of cimetidine by an unclear mechanism. Distribution of cimetidine leads to extensive uptake into kidney, lung and muscle tissues. It distributes into the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) at a ratio of 0.1 to 0.2 compared with plasma. The mean saliva to plasma ratio is 0.2 (range 0.1-0.55). Plasma protein binding is 20%, and there is no relevant effect of changes in binding on the pharmacokinetics of cimetidine. Uptake of cimetidine into red blood cells leads to concentrations equal to those in plasma. Between 50 and 80% of the dose administered intravenously is recovered in urine as unchanged cimetidine. This fraction is less after oral doses, but is independent of the amount of the dose. In ulcer patients, 40% is recovered unchanged in urine after oral administration. Biliary excretion of cimetidine accounts for only 2% of the dose.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging
  • Biotransformation
  • Chemical Phenomena
  • Chemistry
  • Cimetidine / metabolism*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / metabolism
  • Half-Life
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases / metabolism
  • Kinetics
  • Liver Diseases / metabolism
  • Parenteral Nutrition
  • Tissue Distribution
  • Wounds and Injuries / metabolism
  • Zollinger-Ellison Syndrome / metabolism


  • Cimetidine