Research Article| Volume 36, ISSUE 5, P748-759, May 01, 2014

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Assessment of Tacrolimus Absorption From the Human Intestinal Tract: Open-Label, Randomized, 4-Way Crossover Study



      Tacrolimus is an established immunosuppressant used for the prevention and treatment of allograft rejection in solid organ transplantation. An immediate-release oral formulation of tacrolimus has been commercially available since 1994 that is administered orally BID. To improve the compliance and quality of life of transplant patients, a once-daily modified release (MR) formulation is an attractive option. However, to be successful, the drug of interest must be sufficiently well absorbed from the distal region of the gastrointestinal tract.


      To facilitate the development of an MR formulation, we investigated the absorption of tacrolimus from different regions of the human gastrointestinal tract, proximal and distal small bowels, and ascending colon.


      The study was performed as an open-label, randomized, 4-way crossover design in 6 healthy white male subjects. For each subject, 1 mg (2 mg/mL) of tacrolimus solution in polyethylene glycol 400 was administered to each location in the gastrointestinal tract via a site-specific radiolabeled delivery capsule, which can release tacrolimus solution at specific sites of the gastrointestinal tract. Real-time visualization of capsule location and tacrolimus release at each target site was performed by using γ-scintigraphy. Blood samples were collected to determine tacrolimus levels in the blood. The pharmacokinetic parameters Cmax, Tmax after the capsule activation, AUC0–24, and mean residence time were determined from the concentration–time profiles.


      Ten healthy male subjects underwent dosing. Six subjects completed all 4 treatments. Three adverse events (mild headache [n = 1], small amount of blood in stool [n = 1], and mild syncopal episode [n = 1]) that were possibly study drug related were reported in 3 different subjects. Tacrolimus was absorbed from not only the small intestine but also from the colonic region of the gastrointestinal tract. Although AUC0–24 values revealed some site-specific absorption tendencies, the mean AUC0–24 values obtained were similar regardless of the location of tacrolimus release from the capsule.


      Tacrolimus was absorbed from the duodenum to the colon in these male subjects, although differences were observed in the value of AUC0–24, possibly due to variation in cytochrome P450 3A4 activity in the intestine. Although this study was conducted in small group of healthy fasting men, the present results indicate that tacrolimus is suitable for MR formulation development due to a wide absorption window throughout the intestine in humans.

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