Assessment of the First and Second Generation Antihistamines Brain Penetration and Role of P-Glycoprotein

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The sedating effect of first generation H1-antihistamines has been associated with their ability to penetrate the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and lack of efflux by P-glycoprotein (Pgp). Second generation H1-antihistamines are relatively free of sedation and their limited brain penetration has been suggested to arise from Pgp-mediated efflux. The objective of this work was to evaluate the role of Pgp in brain penetration of first and second generation antihistamines.


Potential of antihistamines to be Pgp substrates was tested in vitro using Madin Darby canine kidney cells transfected with human Pgp. The role of Pgp in limiting brain penetration of antihistamines was tested by using the in situ brain perfusion technique.


Majority of antihistamines were Pgp substrates in vitro. Following in situ brain perfusion, the first generation antihistamines substantially penetrated into rat brain independently from Pgp function. The second generation antihistamines terfenadine and loratadine, achieved substantial brain penetration, which was further enhanced by Pgp inhibition by cyclosporin A (CSA). In contrast, fexofenadine and cetirizine, penetrated brain poorly regardless of CSA administration.


Antihistamines greatly differ in their ability to cross the BBB as well as in the role of Pgp in limiting their transport into the CNS in vivo.

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