Mechanism-based pharmacokinetic (MBPK) models describe the complex plasma kinetics of three antiretrovirals delivered by a long-acting anti-HIV drug combination nanoparticle formulation

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Existing oral antiretroviral (ARV) agents have been shown in human studies to exhibit limited lymph node penetration and lymphatic drug insufficiency. As lymph nodes are a reservoir of HIV, it is critical to deliver and sustain effective levels of ARV combinations in these tissues. To overcome lymph node drug insufficiency of oral combination ARV therapy (cART), we developed and reported a long-acting and lymphocyte-targeting injectable that contains three ARVs—hydrophobic lopinavir (LPV) and ritonavir (RTV), and hydrophilic tenofovir (TFV)—stabilized by lipid excipients in a nanosuspension. A single subcutaneous (SC) injection of this first-generation formulation of drug combination nanoparticles (DcNPs), named TLC-ART101, provided persistent ARV levels in macaque lymph node mononuclear cells (LNMCs) for at least 1 week, and in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) and plasma for at least 2 weeks, demonstrating long-acting pharmacokinetics for all three drugs. In addition, the lymphocyte-targeting properties of this formulation were demonstrated by the consistently higher intracellular drug concentrations in LNMCs and PBMCs versus those in plasma. To provide insights into the complex mechanisms of absorption and disposition of TLC-ART101, we constructed novel mechanism-based pharmacokinetic (MBPK) models. Based upon plasma PK data obtained after single administration of TLC-ART101 (DcNPs) and a solution formulation of free triple-ARVs, the models feature uptake from the SC injection site that respectively routes free and nanoparticle-associated ARVs via the blood vasculature and lymphatics, and their eventual distribution into and clearance from the systemic circulation. The models provided simultaneous description of the complex long-acting plasma and lymphatic PK profiles for all three ARVs in TLC-ART101. The long-acting PK characteristics of the three drugs in TLC-ART101 were likely due to a combination of mechanisms including: (1) DcNPs undergoing preferential lymphatic uptake from the subcutaneous space, (2) retention in nodes during lymphatic first-pass, (3) subsequent slow release of ARVs into blood circulation, and (4) limited extravasation of DcNP-associated ARVs that resulted in longer persistence in the circulation.Graphical abstract

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