Tween 80 (Polysorbate 80) is a hydrophilic nonionic surfactant commonly used as an ingredient in dosing vehicles for pre-clinical in vivo studies (e.g., pharmacokinetic studies, etc.). Tween 80 increased apical to basolateral permeability of digoxin in Caco-2 cells suggesting that Tween 80 is an in vitro inhibitor of P-gp. The overall objective of the present study was to investigate whether an inhibition of P-gp by Tween 80 can potentially influence in vivo absorption of P-gp substrates by evaluating the effect of Tween 80 on the disposition of digoxin (a model P-gp substrate with minimum metabolism) after oral administration in rats. Rats were dosed orally with digoxin (0.2 mg/kg) formulated in ethanol (40%, v/v) and saline mixture with and without Tween 80 (1 or 10%, v/v). Digoxin oral AUC increased 30 and 61% when dosed in 1% and 10% Tween 80, respectively, compared to control (P < 0.05). To further examine whether the increase in digoxin AUC after oral administration of Tween 80 is due, in part, to a systemic inhibition of digoxin excretion in addition to an inhibition of P-gp in the GI tract, a separate group of rats received digoxin intravenously (0.2 mg/kg) and Tween 80 (10% v/v) orally. No significant changes in digoxin IV AUC was noted when Tween 80 was administered orally. In conclusion, Tween 80 significantly increased digoxin AUC and Cmax after oral administration, and the increased AUC is likely to be due to an inhibition of P-gp in the gut (i.e., improved absorption). Therefore, Tween 80 is likely to improve systemic exposure of P-gp substrates after oral administration. Comparing AUC after oral administration with and without Tween 80 may be a viable strategy in evaluating whether oral absorption of P-gp substrates is potentially limited by P-gp in the gut.
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