Safety, Tolerability, and Pharmacokinetics of Nebulized Hydroxychloroquine: A Pilot Study in Healthy Volunteers

Publication: J Aerosol Med Pulm Drug Deliv
Software: GastroPlus®


Background: Early in the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) drew substantial attention as a potential COVID-19 treatment based on its antiviral and immunomodulatory effects in vitro. However, HCQ showed a lack of efficacy in vivo, and different groups of researchers attributed this failure to the insufficient drug concentration in the lung following oral administration (HCQ is only available in the market in the tablet form). Delivering HCQ by inhalation represents a more efficient route of administration to increase HCQ exposure in the lungs while minimizing systemic toxicity. In this pilot study, the safety, tolerability, and pharmacokinetics of HCQ nebulizer solution were evaluated in healthy volunteers.

Methods: Twelve healthy participants were included in this study and were administered 2 mL of HCQ01 solution (equivalent to 25 mg of HCQ sulfate) through Aerogen® Solo, a vibrating mesh nebulizer. Local tolerability and systemic safety were assessed by forced expiratory volume in the first and second electrocardiograms, clinical laboratory results (e.g., hematology, biochemistry, and urinalysis), vital signs, and physical examinations. Thirteen blood samples were collected to determine HCQ01 systemic exposure before and until 6 hours after inhalation.

Results: The inhalation of HCQ01 was well tolerated in all participants. The mean value of Cmax for the 12 participants was 9.66 ng/mL. Tmax occurred at around 4.8 minutes after inhalation and rapidly decreased thereafter. The reported systemic exposure was very low with a mean value of 5.28 (0.6–15.6) ng·h/mL.

Conclusion: The low systemic concentrations of HCQ01 of 9.66 ng/mL reported by our study compared with 1 μg/mL previously predicted after 200 mg BID oral administration, and the safety and tolerability of HCQ01 administered as a single dose through nebulization, support the assessment of its efficacy, safety, and tolerability in further studies for the treatment of COVID-19.

By Feras Hawari, Yasmeen Dodin, Rabab Tayyem, Samer Najjar, Hanan Kakish, Mohammed Abu Fara, Abdullah Al Zou’bi, & Nasir Idkaidek