Tacrolimus dose requirements in paediatric renal allograft recipients are characterized by a biphasic course determined by age and bone maturation

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Despite longstanding recognition of significant age-dependent differences in drug disposition during childhood, the exact course and the underlying mechanisms are not known. Our aim was to determine the course and determinants of individual relative dose requirements, during long-term follow-up in children on tacrolimus.


This was a cohort study in a tertiary hospital with standardized annual pharmacokinetic (PK) follow-up (AUC0–12hr) in recipients of a renal allograft (≤19 years), between 1998 and 2015. In addition, the presence of relevant pharmacogenetic variants was determined. The evolution of dose-corrected exposure was evaluated using mixed models.


A total of 184 PK visits by 43 children were included in the study (median age: 14.6). AUC0–12h corrected for dose per kg demonstrated a biphasic course: annual increase 4.4% (CI: 0.3–8.7%) until ±14 years of age, followed by 13.4% increase (CI 8.7–18.3%). Moreover, exposure corrected for dose per m2 proved stable until 14 years (+0.8% annually; CI: −3.0 to +4.8%), followed by a steep increase ≥14 years (+11%; CI: 7.0–16.0%). Analysis according to bone maturation instead of age demonstrated a similar course with a distinct divergence at TW2: 800 (P = 0.01). Genetic variation in CYP3A4, CYP3A5, and CYP3A7 was associated with altered dose requirements, independent of age.


Children exhibit a biphasic course in tacrolimus disposition characterized by a high and stable drug clearance until a specific phase in pubertal development (TW2: 800 at age: ±14 years), followed by an important decline in relative dose requirements thereafter. Pharmacogenetic variation demonstrated an age/puberty independent effect. We suggest a critical reappraisal of current paediatric dosing algorithms for tacrolimus and drugs with a similar disposition.

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