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Cyclosporine is a potent immunosuppressive agent which in animals prolongs survival of allogeneic transplants involving skin, heart, kidney, pancreas, bone marrow, small intestine, and lung. Cyclosporine has been demonstrated to suppress some humoral immunity and to a greater extent, cell-mediated reactions such as allograft rejection, delayed hypersensitivity, experimental allergic encephalomyelitis, Freund's adjuvant arthritis, and graft vs. host disease in many animal species for a variety of organs.

Successful kidney, liver, and heart allogeneic transplants have been performed in man using cyclosporine.

The exact mechanism of action of cyclosporine is not known. Experimental evidence suggests that the effectiveness of cyclosporine is due to specific and reversible inhibition of immunocompetent lymphocytes in the G0-or G1-phase of the cell cycle. T-lymphocytes are preferentially inhibited. The T-helper cell is the main target, although the T-suppressor cell may also be suppressed. Cyclosporine also inhibits lymphokine production and release including interleukin-2 or T-cell growth factor (TCGF).

No functional effects on phagocytic (changes in enzyme secretions not altered, chemotactic migration of granulocytes, macrophage migration, carbon clearance in vivo) or tumor cells (growth rate, metastasis) can be detected in animals. Cyclosporine does not cause bone marrow suppression in animal models or man.

The absorption of cyclosporine from the gastrointestinal tract is incomplete and variable. Peak concentrations (Cmax) in blood and plasma are achieved at about 3.5 hours. Cmax and area under the plasma or blood concentration/time curve (AUC) increase with the administered dose; for blood, the relationship is curvilinear (parabolic) between 0 and 1400 mg. As determined by a specific assay, Cmax is approximately 1.0 ng/mL/mg of dose for plasma and 2.7 to 1.4 ng/mL/mg of dose for blood (for low to high doses). Compared to an intravenous infusion, the absolute bioavailability of the oral solution is approximately 30% based upon the results in 2 patients. The bioavailability of Sandimmune Soft Gelatin Capsules (cyclosporine capsules, USP) is equivalent to Sandimmune Oral Solution, (cyclosporine oral solution, USP).

Cyclosporine is distributed largely outside the blood volume. In blood, the distribution is concentration dependent. Approximately 33% to 47% is in plasma, 4% to 9% in lymphocytes, 5% to 12% in granulocytes, and 41% to 58% in erythrocytes. At high concentrations, the uptake by leukocytes and erythrocytes becomes saturated. In plasma, approximately 90% is bound to proteins, primarily lipoproteins.

The disposition of cyclosporine from blood is biphasic with a terminal half-life of approximately 19 hours (range: 10 to 27 hours). Elimination is primarily biliary with only 6% of the dose excreted in the urine.

Cyclosporine is extensively metabolized but there is no major metabolic pathway. Only 0.1% of the dose is excreted in the urine as unchanged drug. Of 15 metabolites characterized in human urine, 9 have been assigned structures. The major pathways consist of hydroxylation of the Cγ-carbon of 2 of the leucine residues, Cη-carbon hydroxylation, and cyclic ether formation (with oxidation of the double bond) in the side chain of the amino acid 3-hydroxyl-N,4-dimethyl-L-2-amino-6-octenoic acid and N-demethylation of N-methyl leucine residues. Hydrolysis of the cyclic peptide chain or conjugation of the aforementioned metabolites do not appear to be important biotransformation pathways.

Specific Populations

Renal Impairment

In a study performed in 4 subjects with end-stage renal disease (creatinine clearance < 5mL/min), an intravenous infusion of 3.5 mg/kg of cyclosporine over 4 hours administered at the end of a hemodialysis session resulted in a mean volume of distribution (Vdss) of 3.49 L/kg and systemic clearance (CL) of 0.369 L/hr/kg. This systemic CL (0.369 L/hr/kg) was approximately two thirds of the mean systemic CL (0.56 L/hr/kg) of cyclosporine in historical control subjects with normal renal function. In 5 liver transplant patients, the mean clearance of cyclosporine on and off hemodialysis was 463 mL/min and 398 mL/min, respectively. Less than 1% of the dose of cyclosporine was recovered in the dialysate.

Hepatic Impairment

Cyclosporine is extensively metabolized by the liver. Since severe hepatic impairment may result in significantly increased cyclosporine exposures, the dosage of cyclosporine may need to be reduced in these patients.

Last reviewed on RxList: 11/22/2016
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

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