Background: Lovastatin is a cholesterol-lowering drug that can cause myopathy as a rare side effect. Concomitant use of certain drugs (e.g., cyclosporine) increases the risk of skeletal muscle toxicity. Lovastatin is metabolized by CYP3A4. Because itraconazole is a potent inhibitor of CYP3A4, we wanted to study a possible interaction between these drugs.
Methods: In this double-blind, randomized, two-phase crossover study, 12 healthy volunteers received either 200 mg itraconazole or placebo orally once a day for 4 days. On day 4, each subject ingested a single 40 mg dose of lovastatin. Plasma concentrations of lovastatin, lovastatin acid, itraconazole, hydroxyitraconazole, and creatine kinase were measured up to 24 hours.
Results: On average, itraconazole increased the peak concentration (Cmax) of lovastatin and the area under the lovastatin concentration-time curve (AUC) more than twentyfold (p < 0.001). The mean Cmax of the active metabolite, lovastatin acid, was increased 13-fold (range, tenfold to 23-fold; p < 0.001) and the AUC(0-24) twentyfold (p < 0.001). In one subject plasma creatine kinase was increased tenfold within 24 hours of lovastatin administration during the itraconazole phase but not during the placebo phase. No increase in creatine kinase was observed in the other subjects.
Conclusions: Itraconazole greatly increases plasma concentrations of lovastatin and lovastatin acid. Inhibition of CYP3A4-mediated metabolism probably explains the increased toxicity of lovastatin caused not only by itraconazole but also by cyclosporine, erythromycin, and other inhibitors of CYP3A4. Their concomitant use with lovastatin and simvastatin should be avoided, or the dose of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase inhibitors should be reduced accordingly.