Clinical Pharmacokinetics

, Volume 19, Issue 6, pp 462–490 | Cite as

The Effect of Respiratory Disorders on Clinical Pharmacokinetic Variables

  • Anne-Marie Taburet
  • Corinne Tollier
  • Christian Richard
Clinical Pharmacokinetics and Disease Processes


Respiratory disorders induce several pathophysiological changes involving gas exchange and acid-base balance, regional haemodynamics, and alterations of the alveolocapillary membrane. The consequences for the absorption, distribution and elimination of drugs are evaluated.

Drug absorption after inhalation is not significantly impaired in patients. With drugs administered by this route, an average of 10% of the dose reaches the lungs. It is not completely clear whether changes in pulmonary endothelium in respiratory failure enhance lung absorption. The effects of changes in blood pH on plasma protein binding and volume of distribution are discussed, but relevant data are not available to explain the distribution changes observed in acutely ill patients. Lung diffusion of some antimicrobial agents is enhanced in patients with pulmonary infections. Decreased cardiac output and hepatic blood flow in patients under mechanical ventilation cause an increase in the plasma concentration of drugs with a high hepatic extraction ratio, such as lidocaine (lignocaine). On a theoretical basis, hypoxia should lead to decreased biotransformation of drugs with a low hepatic extraction ratio, but in vivo data with Phenazone (antipyrine) or theophylline are conflicting. The effects of disease on the lung clearance of drugs are discussed but clinically relevant data are lacking.

The pharmacokinetics of drugs in patients with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease are reviewed. Stable asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease do not appear to affect the disposition of theophylline or β2-agonists such as salbutamol (albuterol) or terbutaline. Important variations in theophylline pharmacokinetics have been reported in critically ill patients, the causes of which are more likely to be linked to the poor condition of the patients than to a direct effect of hypoxia or hypercapnia. Little is known regarding the pharmacokinetics of cromoglycate, ipratropium, corticoids or antimicrobial agents in pulmonary disease. In patients under mechanical ventilation, the half-life of midazolam, a new benzodiazepine used as a sedative, has been found to be lengthened but the underlying mechanism is not well understood. Pulmonary absorption of pentamidine was found to be increased in patients under mechanical ventilation. Pharmacokinetic impairment does occur in patients with severe pulmonary disease but more work is needed to understand the exact mechanisms and to propose proper dosage regimens.


Asthma Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Theophylline Salbutamol Terbutaline 
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Copyright information

© Adis International Limited 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anne-Marie Taburet
    • 1
  • Corinne Tollier
    • 1
  • Christian Richard
    • 1
  1. 1.Clinical Pharmacy and Intensive Care UnitHôpital de BicêetreParisFrance

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