Evaluating the Clinical Impact of Formulation Variability: A Metoprolol Extended‐Release Case Study

Publication: J Clin Pharmacol


The objective of this research was to evaluate the impact of changes in the formulation of metoprolol extended‐release (ER) tablets on dissolution, pharmacokinetic, and exercise‐induced heart rate (EIHR) using a combined physiologically based absorption pharmacokinetic, and population pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic modeling and simulation approach. Using a previously developed physiologically based absorption pharmacokinetic model in DDDPlus and GastroPlus, we simulated the changes in drug release and exposure as the result of quantitative changes in the release‐controlling excipient, hydroxylpropylmethylcellulose, for 50 and 200 mg. The similarity of dissolution profiles was assessed using the f2 test, and bioequivalence was tested on the simulated pharmacokinetic profiles. We used the simulated concentration‐time profiles following formulation changes as pharmacokinetic input into a population pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic model newly developed in NONMEM to determine if changes in pharmacokinetics lead to clinically significant changes in pharmacodynamics. Pharmacodynamic assessment was based on the percentage reduction in the EIHR from baseline. Therapeutic effect was considered similar when the model‐predicted EIHR was within 50% to 85% of the average maximum EIHR of healthy 30‐year‐old subjects. A 40% or more increase in the release rate constant resulted in dissimilarity in dissolution profiles and bioINequivalence in pharmacokinetics for both 50 and 200 mg. Formulation‐related differences in drug release of metoprolol ER tablets can lead to differences in pharmacokinetics. However, the evaluated pharmacokinetic differences do not lead to clinically meaningful differences in EIHR, suggesting that EIHR may not be sensitive enough to detect changes in pharmacokinetics of metoprolol ER products.