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Chapter 3: Pharmacokinetics

Mr Jones has zero kidney function and is undergoing hemodialysis 3 days per week while awaiting a kidney transplant. He takes metformin for type 2 diabetes mellitus and was previously stabilized (while his kidney function was adequate) at a dosage of 500 mg twice daily, given orally. The plasma concentration at this dosage with normal kidney function was found to be 1.4 mg/L. He has had 6 dialysis procedures and metformin toxicity is suspected. A blood sample now shows a metformin concentration of 4.2 mg/L. What was Mr Jones’ clearance of metformin while his kidney function was normal?

(A) 238 L/d

(B) 29.8 L/h

(C) 3 L/d

(D) 238 L/h

(E) 30 L/min

Examination questions often provide more information than is needed—to test the student’s ability to classify and organize data. In question 1, the data provided for Mr Jones on dialysis is irrelevant, even though choice A, 238 L/d, is the correct clearance while on dialysis. By definition, clearance is calculated by dividing the rate of elimination by the plasma concentration:

Rate in = rate out (elimination rate) at steady state (ss)


The answer is B.

Ms Smith, a 65-year-old woman with pneumonia, was given tobramycin, 150 mg, intravenously. After 20 minutes, the plasma concentration was measured and was found to be 3 mg/L. Assuming no elimination of the drug in 20 minutes, what is the apparent volume of distribution of tobramycin in Ms Smith?

(A) 3 L/min

(B) 3 L

(C) 50 L

(D) 7 L

(E) 0.1 mg/min

The volume of distribution (Vd) is the apparent volume into which the loading dose is distributed. It is calculated by dividing the dose by the resulting plasma concentration, Cp:


The answer is C.

St. John’s Wort, a popular botanical remedy, is a potent inducer of hepatic phase I CYP3A4 enzymes. Verapamil and phenytoin are both eliminated from the body by metabolism in the liver. Verapamil has a clearance of 1.5 L/min, approximately equal to liver blood flow, whereas phenytoin has a clearance of 0.1 L/min. Based on this fact, which of the following is most correct?

(A) St. John’s Wort will increase the half-life of phenytoin and verapamil


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