Tacrolimus, a novel macrocyclic lactone with potent immunosuppressive properties, is currently available as an intravenous formulation and as a capsule for oral use, although other formulations are under investigation. Tacrolimus concentrations in biological fluids have been measured using a number of methods, which are reviewed and compared in the present article. The development of a simple, specific and sensitive assay method for measuring concentrations of tacrolimus is limited by the low absorptivity of the drug, low plasma and blood concentrations, and the presence of metabolites and other drugs which may interfere with the determination of tacrolimus concentrations. Currently, most of the pharmacokinetic data available for tacrolimus are based on an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay method, which does not distinguish tacrolimus from its metabolites. The rate of absorption of tacrolimus is variable with peak blood or plasma concentrations being reached in 0.5 to 6 hours; approximately 25% of the oral dose is bioavailable. Tacrolimus is extensively bound to red blood cells, with a mean blood to plasma ratio of about 15; albumin and α1-acid glycoprotein appear to primarily bind tacrolimus in plasma. Tacrolimus is completely metabolised prior to elimination. The mean disposition half-life is 12 hours and the total body clearance based on blood concentration is approximately 0.06 L/h/kg. The elimination of tacrolimus is decreased in the presence of liver impairment and in the presence of several drugs. Various factors that contribute to the large inter- and interindividual variability in the pharmacokinetics of tacrolimus are reviewed here. Because of this variability, the narrow therapeutic index of tacrolimus, and the potential for several drug interactions, monitoring of tacrolimus blood concentrations is useful for optimisation of therapy and dosage regimen design.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Pharmacology (medical)