Grapefruit juice-simvastatin interaction: effect on serum concentrations of simvastatin, simvastatin acid, and HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors

Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1998 Nov;64(5):477-83. doi: 10.1016/S0009-9236(98)90130-8.


Background: Simvastatin is a cholesterol-lowering agent that is metabolized through CYP3A4. We studied the effect of grapefruit juice on the pharmacokinetics of orally administered simvastatin.

Methods: In a randomized, 2-phase crossover study, 10 healthy volunteers took either 200 mL double-strength grapefruit juice or water 3 times a day for 2 days. On day 3, each subject ingested 60 mg simvastatin with either 200 mL grapefruit juice or water, and an additional 200 mL was ingested 1/2 and 1 1/2 hours after simvastatin administration. Serum concentrations of simvastatin and simvastatin acid were measured by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS-MS) and those of active (naive) and total (after hydrolysis) 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase inhibitors by a radioenzyme inhibition assay.

Results: Grapefruit juice increased the mean peak serum concentration (Cmax) of unchanged simvastatin about 9-fold (range, 5.1-fold to 31.4-fold; P < .01) and the mean area under the serum simvastatin concentration-time curve [AUC(0-infinity)] 16-fold (range, 9.0-fold to 37.7-fold; P < .05). The mean Cmax and AUC(0-infinity) of simvastatin acid were both increased about 7-fold (P < .01). Grapefruit juice increased the mean AUC(0-infinity) of active and total HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors 2.4-fold (P < .01) and 3.6-fold (P < .01), respectively. The time of the peak concentration of active and total HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors was increased by grapefruit juice (P < .05).

Conclusion: Grapefruit juice greatly increased serum concentrations of simvastatin and simvastatin acid and, to a lesser extent, those of active and total HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. The probable mechanism of this interaction was inhibition of CYP3A4-mediated first-pass metabolism of simvastatin by grapefruit juice in the small intestine. Concomitant use of grapefruit juice and simvastatin, at least in large amounts, should be avoided, or the dose of simvastatin should be greatly reduced.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Area Under Curve
  • Beverages
  • Citrus*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Female
  • Food-Drug Interactions
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / blood*
  • Hypolipidemic Agents / blood*
  • Male
  • Reference Values
  • Simvastatin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Simvastatin / blood*


  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Hypolipidemic Agents
  • simvastatin acid
  • Simvastatin