Within-subject pharmacokinetic variability has a strong influence on individual exposure ratios in bioequivalence studies, hence on drug formulation interchangeability

Lechat P., KIR F., Marquet P., Woillard J.

European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, vol.79, no.11, pp.1565-1578, 2023 (SCI-Expanded) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 79 Issue: 11
  • Publication Date: 2023
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s00228-023-03565-6
  • Journal Name: European Journal of Clinical Pharmacology
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus, Academic Search Premier, PASCAL, BIOSIS, CAB Abstracts, Chimica, CINAHL, EMBASE
  • Page Numbers: pp.1565-1578
  • Keywords: Average bioequivalence, Generic drug, Individual exposure ratio, Interchangeability, Reference drug
  • Hacettepe University Affiliated: No


Introduction: Bioequivalence between a reference and a generic drug is based on the hypothesis that a ± 20% change in blood exposure (or ± 10% for drugs with narrow therapeutic index, NTI) following the generic/reference switch will not have any therapeutic consequences. However, the individual exposure ratio between generic and reference can be higher than 1.20 (or 1.10). This study aims to analyse the different parameters influencing the individual exposure ratio, hence the conditions for reference/generic interchangeability. Methods: Bioequivalence studies with a double cross-over design for a virtual drug were simulated using 100 random sets of 12, 24, 48 or 100 pairs of areas under the curve (AUC), varying the generic/reference AUC geometric mean ratios between 0.80 and 1.25 and the within-subject exposure variance of the reference and the generic formulations. Results: The proportion of subjects with an exposure generic/reference ratio outside the ± 10% or ± 20% acceptance intervals increases when (1) the reference within-subject variance increases; (2) the ratio of the generic within-subject variance on the reference within-subject variance increases; and (3) the generic/reference mean AUC ratio diverges from 1.0. When only considering replicated administrations of the reference, the individual exposure ratio increases with the within-subject variance, yielding values outside the usually accepted individual exposure ratio range of 0.5 to 2 for drugs with narrow therapeutic index as soon as the within-subject variance standard deviation is ≥ 0.25 (equivalent to within-patient CV% > 25%). Conclusions: Interchangeability between reference and generic formulations, especially for drugs with narrow therapeutic index can only be assumed if, the within-subject variance of generic is less or equal to the within-subject variance of reference or, if this is not the case, if the distribution of the generic/generic individual exposure ratios is included within the therapeutic margins of the reference drug.