Pharmacokinetics and relative bioavailability of heptabarbital and heptabarbital sodium after oral administration to man

  • D. D. Breimer
  • A. G. de Boer


A method has been developed for the quantitative determination of heptabarbital [5-(1-cyclohepten-1-yl)-5-ethylbarbituric acid] in human plasma after administration of single therapeutic doses of the drug. It involves a single extraction step followed by gas chromatography with alkali flame ionization detection, and the results were linear in the concentration range 0.125 – 5.0 µg/ml plasma. The pharmacokinetics and relative bioavailability of heptabarbital and heptabarbital sodium were studied in a crossover design in 7 healthy volunteers after oral administration of 20 tablets containing 200 mg heptabarbital and hard gelatine capsules containing an equivalent amount of its sodium salt. Heptabarbital concentrations in plasma were determined at regular intervals. The absorption of heptabarbital from the tablets was quite slow and peak level times varied from 1.5 to 4 h. The sodium salt was absorbed more rapidly and peak concentrations occurred between 1/3 and 2 h. In all cases the elimination of heptabarbital could be described by a single first-order process with an average half-life of 7.6 h (range 6.1 – 11.2 h). The half-life of the drug in each individual was about the same in the two trials. The relative bioavailability in each volunteer was estimated by comparing the areas under the plasma concentration curves. The sodium salt had an average bioavailability of 83% relative to the free acid. In some volunteers urinary excretion of unchanged heptabarbital was measured; cumulative excretion amounted to 0.16 – 0.30% of the administered dose. Four volunteers received one tablet each night for eight or ten days, but no accumulation was found. In three volunteers the half-life of the drug prior to and after these experiments did not change, whereas in the other volunteer the half-life decreased from 7.1 to 4.6 h. The possibility of enzyme induction should be considered when heptabarbital is taken regularly. It was concluded that heptabarbital was a suitable drug for the treatment of insomnia, since its half-life was rather short. Heptabarbital sodium may be used for induction of sleep, whereas Medomin® tablets, i.e. heptabarbital free acid, may be prescribed when the maintenance of sleep is the primary reason for treatment with a hypnotic drug.

Key words

Heptabarbital heptabarbital sodium pharmacokinetics plasma concentration single and multiple dose kinetics relative bioavailability urinary excretion 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. D. Breimer
    • 1
  • A. G. de Boer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Pharmacology, Subfaculty of PharmacyUniversity of LeidenLeidenThe Netherlands

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