Time of Peak Drug Concentration after a Single Dose and a Dose at Steady State

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The time of peak concentration after administration of oral drug is an often quoted and used pharmacokinetic parameter. It is not well appreciated, however, that the peak times after a single dose and a dose at steady state during a multiple administration regimen can differ significantly. This article derives the mathematical relationships that determine how a peak time at steady state differs from that after a single or first dose. These relationships are then evaluated using three different approaches: 1) graphic simulations of time courses of drug concentration for three hypothetical drugs; 2) comparisons of predicted and observed peak times using examples from the literature; and 3) comparisons of predicted and simulated peak times based on different sampling schedules for three hypothetical drugs. The key finding is that peak times after a dose at steady state can occur considerably earlier after administration than after a single dose. However, the manner by which peak times are usually determined, that is, the sampling time corresponding to the highest measured drug concentration, imposes significant limitations on the usefulness of this parameter.

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