Pharmacokinetics of bambuterol in subjects homozygous for the atypical gene for plasma cholinesterase

Br J Clin Pharmacol. 1998 May;45(5):479-84. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2125.1998.00697.x.


Aims: It has been assumed that both plasma cholinesterase (EC and oxidative enzymes are needed for optimum formation of the bronchodilator terbutaline from its biscarbamate prodrug bambuterol. The present study aimed at investigating the fate of bambuterol in subjects with deficient plasma cholinesterase but with normal oxidative (CYP2D6) capability.

Methods: The pharmacokinetics of bambuterol and terbutaline were studied in four healthy subjects (two men and two women) being homozygous for the atypical gene for plasma cholinesterase. Their oxidative metabolism was apparently good as they were all rapid metabolizers of debrisoquine. Bambuterol hydrochloride 20 mg was given orally once daily for 10 days, and plasma and urine samples were taken for 1.5 days (plasma) and 4.5 days (urine) after administration of the last dose.

Results: The pharmacokinetic parameters in the present study were grossly similar to those found in a study of bambuterol in subjects with normal plasma cholinesterase activity (N). However, subjects with atypical cholinesterase had a shorter terminal half-life of bambuterol (a measure of uptake rate), 4.8-12.6 h vs 8.3-22.3 h in N, and slightly higher plasma concentrations of bambuterol (average concentrations 1.9-3.7 nmol l(-1) vs 1.5-3.1 nmol l(-1) in N). Peak/trough terbutaline plasma concentrations ratios (2.1-3.2) were somewhat increased, but average plasma concentrations (8.3-14.5 nmol l(-1)) and terminal half-life (16.5-21.8 h) of terbutaline did not differ.

Conclusions: In Caucasian populations, one subject out of 2500 is homozygous for the atypical gene for plasma cholinesterase. The atypical enzyme has a much lower affinity for bambuterol than the normal enzyme. Nevertheless, the subjects with atypical cholinesterase were able to produce terbutaline as efficiently as normal subjects. This might be explained by an altered uptake and metabolism in the absence of plasma cholinesterase, or the importance of this enzyme for the formation of terbutaline from bambuterol in vivo may have been overestimated.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Area Under Curve
  • Bronchodilator Agents / metabolism
  • Bronchodilator Agents / pharmacokinetics*
  • Cholinesterases / blood
  • Cholinesterases / genetics*
  • Debrisoquin / metabolism
  • Female
  • Genotype
  • Half-Life
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolic Clearance Rate
  • Middle Aged
  • Prodrugs / pharmacokinetics*
  • Sympatholytics / metabolism
  • Terbutaline / analogs & derivatives*
  • Terbutaline / blood
  • Terbutaline / metabolism
  • Terbutaline / pharmacokinetics*


  • Bronchodilator Agents
  • Prodrugs
  • Sympatholytics
  • Cholinesterases
  • Terbutaline
  • Debrisoquin
  • bambuterol