Pharmacokinetics and metabolism of RU 486

Pekka Lähteenmäki, Oskari Heikinheimo, Horacio Croxatto, Irving Spitz, Donna Shoupe, Lars Birgerson, Tapani Luukkainen

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90 Citations (Scopus)


The effects of dose on the initial pharmacokinetics and metabolism of an antiprogesterone steroid RU 486 (mifepristone) were studied in healthy female volunteers after administration of RU 486 as a single dose of 50-800 mg. The concentrations of RU 486 and its monodemethylated, dimethylated and hydroxylated non-demethylated metabolites were measured specifically after ChromosorbR-column chromatography by HPLC. Their relative binding affinities to the human uterine progesterone receptor were also determined. Micromolar concentrations of the parent compound in blood were reached within the first hour after oral administration. The pharmacokinetics of RU 486 followed two distinct patterns in a dose-dependent fashion. With a low dose of 50 mg the pharmacokinetics followed an open two-compartment model with a half-life of over 27 h. With the doses of 100-800 mg the initial redistribution phase of 6-10 h was followed by zero-order kinetics up to 24 h or more. Importantly, after ingestion of doses higher than 100 mg of RU 486 there were no significant differences in plasma concentrations of RU 486 within the first 48 h, with the exception of plasma RU 486 concentrations at 2 h. After single oral administration of 200 mg unchanged RU 486 was found 10 days later in two subjects. The elimination phase half-life with this dose, calculated between day 5 and 6, was 24 h. Micromolar concentrations of monodemethylated, didemethylated and non-demethylated hydroxylated metabolites were measured within 1 h after oral administration of RU 486. In contrast to plasma RU 486 concentrations, circulating plasma concentrations of metabolites increased in a dose-dependent fashion. With higher doses the metabolite concentrations were close to, or even in excess to the parent compound. The relative binding affinities of RU 486, monodemethylated, didemethylated and hydroxylated metabolites (progesterone = 100%) to the human progesterone receptor were 232, 50, 21, and 36, respectively. The existence of a high affinity-limited capacity serum binding protein would explain the long half-life and the observed diverging dose-dependent pharmacokinetics. The extravasation of RU 486 after the saturation of serum binding sites would explain the blunted serum peak concentrations of RU 486 with higher doses. The return of the drug back to circulation thereafter explains the zero-order kinetics. High concentrations of circulating metabolites capable of binding to the progesterone receptor suggest a significant contribution of these steroids in the overall antiprogestational action.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)859-863
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Steroid Biochemistry
Issue number4-6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1987

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology


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