The AAPS Journal

, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp E475-E487

Population pharmacokinetic studies in pediatrics: Issues in design and analysis

  • Bernd MeibohmAffiliated withDepartment of Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, The University of Tennessee Health Science Center Email author 
  • , Stephanie LäerAffiliated withClinical Pharmacy and Pharmacotherapy, School of Pharmacy, Heinrich-Heine University
  • , John C. PanettaAffiliated withDepartment of Pharmaceutical Sciences, College of Pharmacy, The University of Tennessee Health Science CenterDepartment of Pharmaceutical Sciences, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital
  • , Jeffrey S. BarrettAffiliated withLaboratory of Applied PK/PD, Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics Division, The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia


The current review addresses the following 3 frequently encountered challenges in the design and analysis of population pharmacokinetic studies in pediatrics: (1) body size adjustments during the development of pharmacostatistical models, (2) design and validation of limited sampling strategies, and (3) the integration of historical priors in data analysis and trial simulation. Size adjustments with empiric approaches based on body weight or body surface area have frequently proven as a pragmatic tool to overcome large size differences in a pediatric study population. Allometric size adjustments, however, provide a more mechanistic, physiologically based approach that, if used a priori, allows delineation of the effect of size from that of other covariates that show a high degree of collinearity. The frequent lack of dense data sets in pediatric clinical pharmacology because of ethical and logistic constraints in study design can be overcome with the application of D-optimality-based limited sampling schemes in combination with Bayesian and nonlinear mixed-effects modeling approaches. Empirically based dose selection and clinical trial designs for pediatric clinical pharmacology studies can be improved by applying clinical trial simulation techniques, especially if they integrate adult and pediatric in vitro and/or in vivo data as historic priors. Although integration of these concepts and techniques in population pharmacokinetic analyses is not only limited to pediatric research, their application allows researchers to overcome some major hurdles frequently encountered in pharmacokinetic studies in pediatrics and, thus, provides the basis for additional clinical pharmacology research in this previously insufficiently studied fraction of the general population.


population pharmacokinetics pediatrics body size sparse sampling clinical trial simulation