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J Clin Pharmacol. 2004 Mar;44(3):224-33.

Quinidine as a probe for the role of p-glycoprotein in the intestinal absorption and clinical effects of fentanyl.

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Department of Anesthesiology, Box 356540, University of Washington, 1959 NE Pacific St. RR-442, Seattle, WA 98195, USA.


The mechanism of individual variability in the fentanyl dose-effect relationship is unknown. The efflux pump P-glycoprotein (P-gp) regulates brain access and intestinal absorption of numerous drugs. Evidence exists that fentanyl is a P-gp substrate in vitro, and P-gp affects fentanyl analgesia in animals. However, the role of P-gp in human fentanyl disposition and clinical effects is unknown. This investigation tested the hypothesis that plasma concentrations and clinical effects of oral and intravenous fentanyl are greater after inhibition of intestinal and brain P-gp, using the P-gp inhibitor quinidine as an in vivo probe. Two randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, balanced, two-period crossover studies were conducted in normal healthy volunteers (6 males and 6 females) after obtaining informed consent. Pupil diameters and/or plasma concentrations of fentanyl and norfentanyl were evaluated after oral or intravenous fentanyl (2.5 microg/kg), dosed 1 hour after oral quinidine (600 mg) or placebo. Quinidine did not alter the magnitude or time to maximum miosis, time-specific pupil diameter, or subjective self-assessments after intravenous fentanyl but did increase the area under the curve (AUC) of miosis versus time (13.6 +/- 5.3 vs. 8.7 +/- 5.0 mm*h, p< 0.05) and decreased the effect of elimination (k(el) 0.35 +/- 0.16 vs. 0.52 +/- 0.24 h(-1), p < 0.05). Quinidine increased oral fentanyl plasma C(max) (0.55 +/- 0.19 vs. 0.21 +/- 0.1 ng/mL) and AUC (1.9 +/- 0.5 vs. 0.7 +/- 0.3 ng*h*mL(-1)) (both p < 0.05) but had no effect on apparent elimination. Plasma norfentanyl/fentanyl AUC ratios were not diminished by quinidine. Quinidine significantly increased maximum miosis after oral fentanyl (3.4 +/- 1.3 vs. 2.3 +/- 1.3 mm, p< 0.05), commensurate with increases in plasma concentrations, but concentration-effect relationships and the rate constant for the transfer between plasma and effect compartment (k(e0)) (1.9 +/- 1.0 vs. 3.6 +/- 2.6 h(-1)) were not significantly different. Quinidine increased oral fentanyl plasma concentrations, suggesting that intestinal P-gp or some other quinidine-sensitive transporter affects the absorption, bioavailability, and hence clinical effects of oral fentanyl. Quinidine had less effect on fentanyl pharmacodynamics, suggesting that if quinidine is an effective inhibitor of brain P-gp, then P-gp appears to have less effect on brain access of fentanyl.

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