Sex-specific effects of excipients on oral drug bioavailability

Yang Mai, Christine M Madla, Haibin Shao, Yujia Qin, Hamid Merchant, Sudaxshina Murdan, Abdul W Basit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The mechanism of action of excipients eliciting sex differences in drug bioavailability is poorly understood. In this study, the excipients Cremophor RH 40 (PEG 40 hydrogenated castor oil), Poloxamer 188 (2-methyloxirane) and Tween 80 (polyoxyethylene (80) sorbitan monooleate) were screened at 0.07 – 5% concentrations for their effect on ranitidine bioavailability in male and female Wistar rats. We show that all excipient concentrations significantly increased ranitidine bioavailability in male, but not female, rats. The effect of these excipients on the intestinal efflux transporters P-glycoprotein (P-gp), breast cancer resistant protein (BCRP) and multi-drug resistant protein 2 (MRP2) were also monitored. Measured by ELISA assay, in male rats, peak reductions in intestinal P-gp protein expression occurred in the presence of 1% Cremophor RH 40 and Poloxamer 188 and 0.5% Tween 80. In contrast, no distinct changes were observed in female intestinal P-gp expression. Unlike P-gp, all excipients had a positive effect on MRP2 protein expression – albeit only in males – in a concentration-dependent manner. The excipients did not modulate intestinal BCRP protein expression in either sex. Endogenous hormones and a nuclear receptor (testosterone, oestradiol and pregnane X receptor; PXR) that are purported to regulate intestinal efflux membrane transporter expression were also quantified. In the presence of all excipients, testosterone levels significantly elevated in males, although PXR levels reduced at similar rates in both sexes. No significant effects were identified in oestradiol levels in male and female rats. It is clear that excipients are not inert and their pathway for modulating drug response is multi-dimensional and specific between sexes. This study showed that excipients increased drug bioavailability of a P-gp drug substrate due to its reductive effect on intestinal P-gp expression; we propose that this link may be due to the excipients modulating fundamental testosterone levels. Understanding the implication of excipients on intestinal physiology and hormone levels can therefore improve pharmaceutical design, clinical efficacy and instigate next generation personalised, sex-specific formulations.
Original languageEnglish
Article number122365
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Pharmaceutics
Early online date6 Nov 2022
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2022


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