Digestion of Lipid-Based Formulations Not only Mediates Changes to Absorption of Poorly Soluble Drugs Due to Differences in Solubilization but Also Reflects Changes to Thermodynamic Activity and Permeability

Yusuke Tanaka, Tri Hung Nguyen, Estelle J.A. Suys, Christopher J.H. Porter

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The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of lipid digestion on the permeability and absorption of orally administered saquinavir (SQV), a biopharmaceutics classification system (BCS) class IV drug, in different lipid-based formulations. Three LBFs were prepared: a mixed short- and medium-chain lipid-based formulation (SMCF), a medium-chain lipid-based formulation (MCF), and a long-chain lipid-based formulation (LCF). SQV was loaded into these LBFs at 26.7 mg/g. To evaluate the pharmacokinetics of SQV in vivo, drug-loaded formulations were predispersed in purified water at 3% w/w and orally administered to rats. A low dose (0.8 mg/rat) was employed to limit confounding effects on drug solubilization, and consistent with this design, presolubilization of SQV in the LBFs did not increase in vivo exposure compared to a control suspension formulation. The areas under the plasma concentration-time curve were, however, significantly lower after administration of SQV as MCF and LCF compared to SMCF. To evaluate the key mechanisms underpinning absorption, each LBF containing SQV was digested, and the flux of SQV from the digests across a dialysis membrane was evaluated in in vitro permeation experiments. This study revealed that the absorption profiles were driven by the free concentration of SQV and that this varied due to differences in SQV solubilization in the digestion products generated by LBF digestion. The apparent first-order permeation rate constants of SQV (kapp,total) were estimated by dividing the flux of SQV in the dialysis membrane experiments by the concentration of total SQV on the donor side. kapp,total values strongly correlated with in vivo AUC. The data provide one of the first studies of the effect of digestion products on the free concentration of a drug in the GI fluid and oral absorption. This simple permeation model may be a useful tool for the evaluation of the impact of lipid digestion on apparent drug permeability from lipid-based formulations. These effects should be assessed alongside, and in addition to, the more well-known effects of lipids on enhancing intestinal solubilization of poorly water-soluble drugs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1768-1778
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Pharmaceutics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2021


  • fatty acids
  • free concentration
  • in vitro digestion
  • lipid-based formulation
  • oral absorption

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