The interplay between supersaturation, precipitation and permeation characteristics of the poorly water-soluble drug ezetimibe (EZ) was investigated. Supersaturation and precipitation characteristics of EZ in the presence of Caco-2 cells were compared to those in a cell-free environment. The effect of the water-soluble polymer polyvinyl pyrrolidone (PVP-K30) on the supersaturation, precipitation and transport of EZ was also investigated and the amount of drug taken up by Caco-2 cells was quantified.
A one-compartment setup without Caco-2 cells (i.e. in the wells of cell-culture plates) was used to mimic a non-sink in vitro dissolution chamber. The two-compartment Caco-2 cell monolayer setup (with apical and basolateral compartments) was used to investigate how the absorption of EZ affects supersaturation. EZ in varying degrees of supersaturation (DS; 10, 20, 30 and 40) was introduced into the one-compartment setup or the apical chamber of the two-compartment setup. Samples were collected at specific times to determine supersaturation, precipitation and permeation. At the end of the study, Caco-2 cells were lysed and the intracellular amount of EZ was quantified.
In the one-compartment setup, a high DS was associated with rapid precipitation. Supersaturation was maintained for longer time periods and precipitation was lower in the presence of Caco-2 cells. There were no significant differences in the absorption rate of the drug, even at high concentrations on the apical side. Permeability coefficients for all supersaturated solutions (i.e. DS 10–40) were significantly (p < 0.05) different from those when EZ was present in crystalline form. Both concentrations of PVP-K30 (i.e. 0.05% and 0.1% w/v) improved solubility and supersaturation of EZ when added to the apical side, however, the increase in absorption at the higher concentration was not proportional. The amount of intracellular EZ increased with increasing DS in the apical side, until the saturation limit was reached in the cells (i.e. at DS 30 and higher).
This study demonstrated that precipitation of EZ could be overestimated when supersaturation was investigated without the implementation of an absorption compartment in vitro, both in the absence and in the presence of polymer.