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01.12.2014 | Review Article | Ausgabe 12/2014

Clinical Pharmacokinetics 12/2014

Pharmacokinetic and Pharmacodynamic Drug Interactions with Ethanol (Alcohol)

Clinical Pharmacokinetics > Ausgabe 12/2014
Lingtak-Neander Chan, Gail D. Anderson


Ethanol (alcohol) is one of the most widely used legal drugs in the world. Ethanol is metabolized by alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and the cytochrome P450 (CYP) 2E1 drug-metabolizing enzyme that is also responsible for the biotransformation of xenobiotics and fatty acids. Drugs that inhibit ADH or CYP2E1 are the most likely theoretical compounds that would lead to a clinically significant pharmacokinetic interaction with ethanol, which include only a limited number of drugs. Acute ethanol primarily alters the pharmacokinetics of other drugs by changing the rate and extent of absorption, with more limited effects on clearance. Both acute and chronic ethanol use can cause transient changes to many physiologic responses in different organ systems such as hypotension and impairment of motor and cognitive functions, resulting in both pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic interactions. Evaluating drug interactions with long-term use of ethanol is uniquely challenging. Specifically, it is difficult to distinguish between the effects of long-term ethanol use on liver pathology and chronic malnutrition. Ethanol-induced liver disease results in decreased activity of hepatic metabolic enzymes and changes in protein binding. Clinical studies that include patients with chronic alcohol use may be evaluating the effects of mild cirrhosis on liver metabolism, and not just ethanol itself. The definition of chronic alcohol use is very inconsistent, which greatly affects the quality of the data and clinical application of the results. Our study of the literature has shown that a significantly higher volume of clinical studies have focused on the pharmacokinetic interactions of ethanol and other drugs. The data on pharmacodynamic interactions are more limited and future research addressing pharmacodynamic interactions with ethanol, especially regarding the non-central nervous system effects, is much needed.

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