Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Pharmacokinetics (in Greek: “pharmacon” meaning drug and “kinetikos” meaning putting in motion, the study of time dependency; sometimes abbreviated as “PK”) is a branch of pharmacology dedicated to the determination of the fate of substances administered externally to a living organism. It is the study of what the body does to a drug.
In practice, this discipline is applied mainly to drug substances, though in principle it concerns itself with all manner of compounds ingested or otherwise delivered externally to an organism, such as nutrients, metabolites, hormones, toxins, etc.
Pharmacokinetics is often studied in conjunction with pharmacodynamics.

Pharmacokinetics includes the study of the mechanisms of absorption and distribution of an administered drug, the rate at which a drug action begins and the duration of the effect, the chemical changes of the substance in the body (e.g. by enzymes) and the effects and routes of excretion of the metabolites of the drug.

Pharmacokinetics is divided into several areas which includes the extent and rate of Absorption, Distribution, Metabolism and Excretion. This is commonly referred to as the ADME scheme. However recent understanding about the drug-body interactions brought about the inclusion of new term Liberation. Now Pharmacokinetics can be better described as LADME.

Liberation is the process of release of drug from the formulation.

Absorption is the process of a substance entering the body.

Distribution is the dispersion or dissemination of substances throughout the fluids and tissues of the body.

Metabolism is the irreversible transformation of parent compounds into daughter metabolites.

Excretion is the elimination of the substances from the body. In rare cases, some drugs irreversibly accumulate in a tissue in the body.

Pharmacokinetics describes how the body affects a specific drug after administration. Pharmacokinetic properties of drugs may be affected by elements such as the site of administration and the concentration in which the drug is administered. These may affect the absorption rate.

AnalysisPharmacokinetic analysis is performed by noncompartmental (model independent) or compartmental methods. Noncompartmental methods estimate the exposure to a drug by estimating the area under the curve of a concentration-time graph. Compartmental methods estimate the concentration-time graph using kinetic models. Compartment-free methods are often more versatile in that they do not assume any specific compartmental model and produce accurate results also acceptable for bioequivalence studies.

Noncompartmental analysis
Noncompartmental PK analysis is highly dependent on estimation of total drug exposure. Total drug exposure is most often estimated by Area Under the Curve methods, with the trapezoidal rule (numerical differential equations) the most common area estimation method. Due to the dependence of the length of 'x' in the trapezoidal rule, the area estimation is highly dependent on the blood/plasma sampling schedule. That is, the closer your time points are, the closer the trapezoids are to the actual shape of the concentration-time curve.

Compartmental analysis
Compartmental PK analysis uses kinetic models to describe and predict the concentration-time curve. PK compartmental models are often similar to kinetic models used in other scientific disciplines such as chemical kinetics and thermodynamics. The advantage of compartmental to some noncompartmental analysis is the ability to predict the concentration at any time. The disadvantage is the difficulty in developing and validating the proper model. Compartment-free modeling based on curve stripping does not suffer this limitation. "PK Solutions" is an easy to use, industry standard software that produces both noncompartmental as well as compartment-free results suitable for research and education. The simplest PK compartmental model is the one-compartmental PK model with IV bolus administration and first-order elimination. The most complex PK models (called PBPK models) rely on the use of physiological information to ease development and validation.

Further reading:
Pharmacokinetics Made Easy by Donald Birkett

Clinical Pharmacokinetics: Concepts and Applications by Malcolm Rowland and Thomas N. Tozer

Applied Pharmacokinetics and Pharmacodynamics: Principles of Therapeutic Drug Monitoring by William E. Evans, Leslie M. Shaw, Jerome J. Schentag and Michael E. Burton
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