Physiologically based pharmacokinetic modeling and simulation of cannabinoids in human plasma and tissues

Authors: Liu Y, Sprando RL
Publication: J Appl Toxicol
Software: GastroPlus®
Division: Simulations Plus


There has been an increased public interest in developing consumer products containing nonintoxicating cannabinoids, such as cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabigerol (CBG). At the present time, there is limited information available on the pharmacokinetics of cannabinoids in humans. Since pharmacokinetic profiles are important in understanding the pharmacological and toxicological effects at the target sites, physiologically based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) modeling was used to predict the plasma and tissue concentrations of 17 cannabinoids in humans. PBPK models were established using measured (in vitro) and predicted (in silico) physicochemical and pharmacokinetic properties, such as water solubility and effective human jejunal permeability. Initially, PBPK models were established for CBD and the model performance was evaluated using reported clinical data after intravenous and oral administration. PBPK models were then developed for 16 additional cannabinoids including CBG, and the plasma and tissue concentrations were predicted after 30 mg oral administration. The pharmacokinetic profiles of the 16 cannabinoids were similar to CBD, and the plasma concentration and time profiles of CBD agreed well with clinical data in the literature. Although low exposure was predicted in the plasma (maximum plasma concentrations < 15 nM), the predicted tissue concentrations, especially the liver (maximum liver concentrations 70–183 nM), were higher after oral administration of 30 mg cannabinoids. These predicted plasma and tissue concentrations could be used to guide further in vitro and in vivo testing.

By Yitong Liu & Robert L. Sprando