Comparison of single- and repeated-dose pharmacokinetics of diazepam

Epilepsia. 1998 Mar;39(3):283-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1528-1157.1998.tb01374.x.


Purpose: To determine whether repeat boluses of diazepam (DZP) lead to significant accumulation in the central nervous system and/or peripheral compartments, as repeat intravenous boluses of diazepam are commonly used in the treatment of status epilepticus (SE).

Methods: In a rat model that permits simultaneous serum and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) sampling, we characterized the pharmacokinetics of DZP and its metabolite, desmethyldiazepam, in CSF and blood using HPLC. DZP was administered by intraperitoneal injection as either a single dose (20 or 30 mg/kg) or repeat doses (10 or 20 mg/kg x 3, 1 h apart).

Results: After a single intraperitoneal dose, DZP was rapidly absorbed with a time to maximum concentration of 10 min. The serum concentrations then declined biexponentially. DZP rapidly entered the CSF, the CSF to serum ratio reached equilibrium within 10 min, and was equivalent to the ratio of free to total serum concentration. Repeated DZP dosing resulted in a threefold decrease in volume of distribution and clearance (p < 0.001). This was reflected in the CSF concentration data; however, after the third dose, the ratio of CSF to serum concentration, also increased greatly, representing further persistence of DZP in the CSF compartment.

Conclusions: Repeat dosing of DZP leads to substantial accumulation, and high, persistent serum and CSF concentrations, which may explain the toxic effects of repeat DZP dosing. Repeat dosing of DZP using a tapering protocol, however, may increase the effectiveness of DZP in treating SE by preventing relapses without substantially increasing toxicity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Diazepam / blood
  • Diazepam / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Diazepam / pharmacokinetics*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intraperitoneal
  • Male
  • Nordazepam / blood
  • Nordazepam / cerebrospinal fluid
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Status Epilepticus / drug therapy


  • Nordazepam
  • Diazepam