Clinical Pharmacokinetics

, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp 23-41

First online:

Drug Interactions with Cimetidine

  • Andrew SomogyiAffiliated withClinical Pharmacology Laboratory, Baker Medical Research InstituteDepartment of Medicine, University of Bonn
  • , Roland GuglerAffiliated withClinical Pharmacology Laboratory, Baker Medical Research InstituteDepartment of Medicine, University of Bonn

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Because of widespread (and often uncritical) use of Cimetidine, there is considerable potential for interactions to occur with other drugs.

In studies on absorption, benzylpenicillin absorption was not disturbed by Cimetidine in most cases, but a several-fold increase in urinary excretion occurred repeatedly in I subject, indicating that increased absorption of acid-labile compounds may occur in some patients. The absorption of ketoconazole was reduced by more than half with Cimetidine, a consequence of its poor water solubility which is enhanced in acid solution. Conflicting results are reported with tetracycline, the overall absorption of which does not appear to be significantly altered by Cimetidine. Aspirin absorption was halved by Cimetidine in 3 of 6 subjects, when the intragastric pH was raised above 3.5. Cimetidine did not affect the absorption of ampicillin, co-trimoxazole or prednisolone.

Cimetidine has been shown to inhibit various microsomal drug-metabolising enzymes in animal as well as human liver, most likely through the binding of the imidazole ring structure of Cimetidine to the haeme moiety of cytochrome P-450. In 7 studies, Cimetidine uniformly prolonged antipyrine half-life by 18 to 37% and reduced its clearance by 10 to 27%. After chronic dosing with Cimetidine, warfarin clearance was reduced from 3.4 to 2.5ml/min, whilst the volume of distribution and elimination half-life remained unchanged. Steady-state warfarin concentrations, as well as Prothrombin times, increased upon addition of Cimetidine to the treatment regimen. Warfarin concentration and effect both returned to pre-Cimetidine values when Cimetidine was withdrawn. Amongst the benzodiazepines, diazepam, desmethyldiazepam and chlordiazepoxide plasma clearance values were reduced by Cimetidine by 43, 28 and 63 %, respectively, and half-lives increased accordingly, while volumes of distribution and protein binding were not affected. Long term treatment with Cimetidine and diazepam resulted in a 30 to 80% increase in steady-state diazepam concentrations. In contrast, the pharmacokinetics of oxazepam and lorazepam, which are eliminated almost entirely by glucuronidation and not oxidation, were not altered by Cimetidine. Cimetidine also inhibits the metabolism of phenytoin, theophylline and carbamazepine.

A single dose of Cimetidine decreased indocyanine green clearance by 23%, which was interpreted as a reduction in hepatic blood flow. The area below the Propranolol concentration-time curve (oral administration) was increased by between 25 and 60 % with Cimetidine and by 25 % after intravenous administration of Propranolol, with no change in elimination half-life, volume of distribution or bioavailability. With chronic oral Propranolol dosing, Cimetidine increased the steady-state concentration from 23.2 to 44.9ng/ml. The bioavailability of labetalol almost doubled from 30 to 54 % with Cimetidine, with no change in half-life and systemic clearance. The oral clearance and elimination half-life of chlormethiazole was increased by 30 and 50%, respectively, by Cimetidine. Studies with high hepatic clearance drugs have not consistently shown cimetidine-induced changes in systemic clearance (liver blood flow dependent), but oral clearance increased in all cases, consistent with inhibition of drug metabolism.

Peculiarities of Cimetidine effect on drug metabolism are (a) only about 20% of a Cimetidine dose is metabolised in man, as compared with a much larger fraction with other inhibitory drugs; (b) the maximum effect attained occurs within I day whereas offset of effect varies with individual interacting drugs; (c) the degree of inhibition of metabolism is much more pronounced in patients with already impaired liver function (i.e. liver disease).

Antacids of a weak neutralising capacity (10 to 15mmol/dose) did not influence the absorption of Cimetidine. However, antacids (aluminium plus magnesium hydroxide) with a neutralising capacity between 26 and 41 mmol/10ml reduced the bioavailability of Cimetidine by 20 to 35%. A recent study with an aluminium plus magnesium hydroxide antacid of 70mmol/10ml did not affect Cimetidine bioavailability. The antacid preparation used differed from others by a disproportionate increase in the aluminium hydroxide content. Metoclopramide and propantheline also reduced the absorption of Cimetidine by an average of 20 %, indicating the importance of gastric emptying for Cimetidine absorption. Phenobarbitone administration over 3 weeks led to an increase in Cimetidine plasma clearance by 18%, mainly due to an increase in the non-renal clearance, but probably also partially due to a reduction in Cimetidine absorption.

The most important clinical consequences of interactions with Cimetidine primarily involve inhibition of drug metabolism. Clinically important interactions are predominantly manifested in those drugs which have a narrow therapeutic index (e.g. Phenytoin, warfarin, theophylline). The interaction leads to higher steady-state blood concentrations and hence increases the incidence of side effects and toxicity. Adverse effects of such interactions can be avoided by careful monitoring and adjustment of dosage for those drugs which undergo phase I metabolic detoxification in the liver when it is necessary to administer such drugs concomitantly with Cimetidine.