Objective To describe the pharmacokinetics and exposure of oral sildenafil (SIL) in neonates (2–5 kg) with pulmonary hypertension (PH).
Design We included 11 neonates (body weight 2–5 kg, postnatal age 2–121 days) who received SIL and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) treatment for PH. SIL capsules were given via a nasogastric tube. Blood samples were collected via a pre-existing arterial line to quantify SIL and metabolite plasma levels (219 samples). Non-linear mixed effects modelling was used to describe SIL and desmethylsildenafil (DMS) pharmacokinetics.
Results A one-compartment model was suitable for SIL and DMS. Interpatient and intrapatient variability for clearance at 100% bioavailability were 87% and 27% (SIL) and 62% and 26% (DMS). Patient weight, postnatal age and post-ECMO time did not explain variability. Concomitant fluconazole use was associated with a 47% reduction in SIL clearance. The exposure expressed as average plasma concentration area under the curve over 24 h (AUC24 (SIL+DMS)) ranged from 625 to 13 579 ng/h/ml. An oral dose of 4.2 mg/kg/24 h would lead to a median AUC24 (SIL+DMS) of 2650 ng/h/ml equivalent to 20 mg three times a day in adults. Interpatient variability was large, with a simulated AUC24 (SIL+DMS) range (10th and 90th percentiles) of 1000–8000 ng/h/ml.
Conclusions SIL pharmacokinetics are highly variable in post-ECMO neonates and infants. In a median patient, the current dose regimen of 0.5–2.0 mg/kg four times a day leads to an exposure comparable to the recommended adult dose of 20 mg four times a day. Careful dose titration, based on efficacy and the occurrence of hypotension, remains necessary. Follow-up research should include appropriate pharmacodynamic endpoints, with a population pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic analysis to assign a suitable exposure window or target concentration.
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Competing interests None.
Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the Medical-Ethical Review Board (METC), Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Patient consent Written informed consent was obtained from parents or guardians.