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Semin Thromb Hemost. 2000;26 Suppl 1:31-8.

Comparative pharmacokinetics of LMWHs.

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  • 1Service d'Hématologie Biologique, Hôpital Hôtel-Dieu de Paris, France.


A variety of pharmaceutical preparations of low-molecular-weight heparins (LMWHs) are available. They belong to the same family of compounds-ie, heparin derivatives with a narrow distribution of mean molecular weights (MWs). LMWHs have different methods of preparation, which result in variations in mean MW, distribution of MW, and pharmacokinetic (PK) and pharmacodynamic (PD) profiles. The mean MW of these compounds ranges from 3,600 to 6,500 daltons. The ratio of anti-Xa (aXa) and anti-IIa (aIIa) activities of the different LMWHs ranges from 1.5 to >10. After subcutaneous (SC) injection of a prophylactic or therapeutic dose, the peak values for plasma aXa or aIIa activity may vary twofold to threefold because of differences in bioavailability, plasma clearance (Clplasma), and half-life (t1/2). The injection of equivalent amounts of product, based on aXa and aIIa international units (IU), may result in different areas under the curve for the respective activities. Although tinzaparin has a high aIIa specific activity per milligram (and consequently, a low aXa/aIIa ratio), SC injection of 40 mg of enoxaparin (4,000 aXa IU) results in a higher aXa peak value in patients with total hip replacement than 4,500 aXa IU of tinzaparin. Differences in aIIa and aXa peak activities are more striking when high doses of LMWHs are used. The activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT) can be significantly prolonged, an effect that is related to aIIa and aXa activity. The volume of distribution of LMWHs is of the same order of magnitude as that of the plasma volume. The mean retention time of aXa activity varies from 5.2 (dalteparin) to approximately 7 h (enoxaparin, nadroparin). Bioavailability of prophylactic doses of LMWHs ranges from 86% (dalteparin) to 98% (enoxaparin, nadroparin). PK parameters appear to be minimally affected by a patient's age. The Clplasma is different for each LMWH: 16 mL/min enoxaparin, 21 mL/min nadroparin, 33 mL/min dalteparin, 19 mL/min reviparin, and 22 mL/min tinzaparin. Accumulation of product has been observed for almost all LMWHs in patients with renal insufficiency. LMWHs are effective and safe for treatment or prophylaxis of venous thromboembolism during pregnancy, because they do not cross the placenta. No data are available regarding the passage of LMWHs into the milk in lactating women. Although LMWHs are also effective in prevention and treatment of thromboembolic disease in children, optimal use of these agents in pediatric patients has not been determined. In summary, the PD and PK of LMWHs have been well documented and have demonstrated that LMWHs have a more predictable response, a greater bioavailability, and a longer aXa t1/2 than unfractionated heparin. However, their distribution of MW affects their physicochemical and biological properties, as well as PK characteristics. The concept of aXa/aIIa ratio (determined in vitro) does not account for the differing PK of aXa and aIIIa activity in circulating blood.

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