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Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2013 Sep;42(3):256-61. doi: 10.1016/j.ijantimicag.2013.05.007. Epub 2013 Jul 7.

Pharmacokinetic studies in patients with nontuberculous mycobacterial lung infections.

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Radboud University Medical Centre, University Centre for Chronic Diseases Dekkerswald, Department of Pulmonary Diseases, Nijmeegsebaan 31, 6561 KE, Groesbeek, The Netherlands.


Concentrations of antimycobacterial drugs are an intermediary link between doses administered and eventual response to the drugs. Few pharmacokinetic (PK) studies have focused on drug treatment for nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) disease, although a favourable treatment response occurs in just over 50% of patients despite drug treatment for ≥1 year. A prospective, descriptive PK study was performed to assess the plasma pharmacokinetics of rifampicin, ethambutol, clarithromycin, 14-OH-clarithromycin, azithromycin, isoniazid and moxifloxacin. Intensive PK sampling was performed in 14 patients with clinically relevant NTM lung disease. PK parameters were assessed and were compared with available data from the literature. Exposure to clarithromycin when combined with rifampicin was very low [area under the concentration-time curve over 12 h (AUC(0-12 h), geometric mean 2.6 h·mg/L, range 1.6-3.2 h·mg/L; peak concentration in plasma (C(max)), geometric mean 0.3 mg/L, range 0.1-0.7 mg/L]. The mean parent-to-metabolite ratios for clarithromycin to 14-OH-clarithromycin were 0.4 and 0.3 for AUC(0-12 h) and C(max), instead of the typical ratio of ca. 3, probably reflecting increased metabolism of clarithromycin to its (virtually inactive) 14-OH metabolite. Exposure to rifampicin was relatively high, with all patients having a rifampicin C(max) within the reference range. The majority of ethambutol C(max) values were within the reference range. The current study re-emphasises the relevant PK interaction between clarithromycin and rifampicin. This calls for a re-evaluation of dosing strategies in NTM lung disease, as suboptimal drug exposure may contribute to inadequate response to treatment of NTM disease.


Clarithromycin; Interaction; NTM disease; Pharmacokinetics; Rifampicin

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