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PLoS Comput Biol. 2013;9(7):e1003151. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003151. Epub 2013 Jul 18.

Improving pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic modeling to investigate anti-infective chemotherapy with application to the current generation of antimalarial drugs.

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Parasitology Department, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Pembroke Place, Liverpool, United Kingdom.


Mechanism-based pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic (PK/PD) modelling is the standard computational technique for simulating drug treatment of infectious diseases with the potential to enhance our understanding of drug treatment outcomes, drug deployment strategies, and dosing regimens. Standard methodologies assume only a single drug is used, it acts only in its unconverted form, and that oral drugs are instantaneously absorbed across the gut wall to their site of action. For drugs with short half-lives, this absorption period accounts for a significant period of their time in the body. Treatment of infectious diseases often uses combination therapies, so we refined and substantially extended the PK/PD methodologies to incorporate (i) time lags and drug concentration profiles resulting from absorption across the gut wall and, if required, conversion to another active form; (ii) multiple drugs within a treatment combination; (iii) differing modes of action of drugs in the combination: additive, synergistic, antagonistic; (iv) drugs converted to an active metabolite with a similar mode of action. This methodology was applied to a case study of two first-line malaria treatments based on artemisinin combination therapies (ACTs, artemether-lumefantrine and artesunate-mefloquine) where the likelihood of increased artemisinin tolerance/resistance has led to speculation on their continued long-term effectiveness. We note previous estimates of artemisinin kill rate were underestimated by a factor of seven, both the unconverted and converted form of the artemisinins kill parasites and the extended PK/PD methodology produced results consistent with field observations. The simulations predict that a potentially rapid decline in ACT effectiveness is likely to occur as artemisinin resistance spreads, emphasising the importance of containing the spread of artemisinin resistance before it results in widespread drug failure. We found that PK/PD data is generally very poorly reported in the malaria literature, severely reducing its value for subsequent re-application, and we make specific recommendations to improve this situation.

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