CARNITOR® (levocarnitine) is a naturally occurring substance required in mammalian energy metabolism. It has been shown to facilitate long-chain fatty acid entry into cellular mitochondria, thereby delivering substrate for oxidation and subsequent energy production. Fatty acids are utilized as an energy substrate in all tissues except the brain. In skeletal and cardiac muscle, fatty acids are the main substrate for energy production.
Primary systemic carnitine deficiency is characterized by low concentrations of levocarnitine in plasma, RBC, and/or tissues. It has not been possible to determine which symptoms are due to carnitine deficiency and which are due to an underlying organic acidemia, as symptoms of both abnormalities may be expected to improve with CARNITOR®. The literature reports that carnitine can promote the excretion of excess organic or fatty acids in patients with defects in fatty acid metabolism and/or specific organic acidopathies that bioaccumulate acylCoA esters.1-6
Secondary carnitine deficiency can be a consequence of inborn errors of metabolism or iatrogenic factors such as hemodialysis. CARNITOR® may alleviate the metabolic abnormalities of patients with inborn errors that result in accumulation of toxic organic acids. Conditions for which this effect has been demonstrated are: glutaric aciduria II, methyl malonic aciduria, propionic acidemia, and medium chain fatty acylCoA dehydrogenase deficiency.7,8 Autointoxication occurs in these patients due to the accumulation of acylCoA compounds that disrupt intermediary metabolism. The subsequent hydrolysis of the acylCoA compound to its free acid results in acidosis which can be life-threatening. Levocarnitine clears the acylCoA compound by formation of acylcarnitine, which is quickly excreted. Carnitine deficiency is defined biochemically as abnormally low plasma concentrations of free carnitine, less than 20 μmol/L at one week post term and may be associated with low tissue and/or urine concentrations. Further, this condition may be associated with a plasma concentration ratio of acylcarnitine/levocarnitine greater than 0.4 or abnormally elevated concentrations of acylcarnitine in the urine. In premature infants and newborns, secondary deficiency is defined as plasma levocarnitine concentrations below age-related normal concentrations.
End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) patients on maintenance hemodialysis may have low plasma carnitine concentrations and an increased ratio of acylcarnitine/carnitine because of reduced intake of meat and dairy products, reduced renal synthesis and dialytic losses. Certain clinical conditions common in hemodialysis patients such as malaise, muscle weakness, cardiomyopathy and cardiac arrhythmias may be related to abnormal carnitine metabolism.
Pharmacokinetic and clinical studies with CARNITOR® have shown that administration of levocarnitine to ESRD patients on hemodialysis results in increased plasma levocarnitine concentrations.
In a relative bioavailability study in 15 healthy adult male volunteers, CARNITOR® Tablets were found to be bio-equivalent to CARNITOR® Oral Solution. Following 4 days of dosing with 6 tablets of CARNITOR® 330 mg b.i.d. or 2 g of CARNITOR® oral solution b.i.d., the maximum plasma concentration (Cmax) was about 80 μmol/L and the time to maximum plasma concentration (Tmax) occurred at 3.3 hours.
The plasma concentration profiles of levocarnitine after a slow 3 minute intravenous bolus dose of 20 mg/kg of CARNITOR® were described by a two-compartment model. Following a single i.v. administration, approximately 76% of the levocarnitine dose was excreted in the urine during the 0-24h interval. Using plasma concentrations uncorrected for endogenous levocarnitine, the mean distribution half life was 0.585 hours and the mean apparent terminal elimination half life was 17.4 hours.
The absolute bioavailability of levocarnitine from the two oral formulations of CARNITOR®, calculated after correction for circulating endogenous plasma concentrations of levocarnitine, was 15.1 ± 5.3% for CARNITOR® Tablets and 15.9 ± 4.9% for CARNITOR® Oral Solution.
Total body clearance of levocarnitine (Dose/AUC including endogenous baseline concentrations) was a mean of 4.00 L/h.
Levocarnitine was not bound to plasma protein or albumin when tested at any concentration or with any species including the human.9
In a 9-week study, 12 ESRD patients undergoing hemodialysis for at least 6 months received CARNITOR® 20 mg/kg three times per week after dialysis. Prior to initiation of CARNITOR® therapy, mean plasma levocarnitine concentrations were approximately 20 μmol/L pre-dialysis and 6 μmol/L post-dialysis. The table summarizes the pharmacokinetic data (mean ± SD μmol/L) after the first dose of CARNITOR® and after 8 weeks of CARNITOR® therapy.
||1139 ± 240
||1190 ± 270
|Trough (pre-dialysis, pre-dose)
||21.3 ± 7.7
||68.4 ± 26.1
||190 ± 55
After one week of CARNITOR® therapy (3 doses), all patients had trough concentrations between 54 and 180 μmol/L (normal 40-50 μmol/L) and concentrations remained relatively stable or increased over the course of the study.
In a similar study in ESRD patients also receiving 20 mg/kg CARNITOR® 3 times per week after hemodialysis, 12- and 24-week mean pre-dialysis (trough) levocarnitine concentrations were 189 (N=25) and 243 (N=23) μmol/L, respectively.
In a dose-ranging study in ESRD patients undergoing hemodialysis, patients received 10, 20, or 40 mg/kg CARNITOR® 3 times per week following dialysis (N~30 for each dose group). Mean ± SD trough levocarnitine concentrations (μmol/L) by dose after 12 and 24 weeks of therapy are summarized in the table.
||116 ± 69
||148 ± 50
||210 ± 58
||240 ± 60
||371 ± 111
||456 ± 162
While the efficacy of CARNITOR® to increase carnitine concentrations in patients with ESRD undergoing dialysis has been demonstrated, the effects of supplemental carnitine on the signs and symptoms of carnitine deficiency and on clinical outcomes in this population have not been determined.
Metabolism And Excretion
In a pharmacokinetic study where five normal adult male volunteers received an oral dose of [3H-methyl]-L-carnitine following 15 days of a high carnitine diet and additional carnitine supplement, 58 to 65% of the administered radioactive dose was recovered in the urine and feces in 5 to 11 days. Maximum concentration of [3H-methyl]-L-carnitine in serum occurred from 2.0 to 4.5 hr after drug administration. Major metabolites found were trimethylamine N-oxide, primarily in urine (8% to 49% of the administered dose) and [3H]-γ-butyrobetaine, primarily in feces (0.44% to 45% of the administered dose). Urinary excretion of levocarnitine was about 4 to 8% of the dose. Fecal excretion of total carnitine was less than 1% of the administered dose.10
After attainment of steady state following 4 days of oral administration of CARNITOR® Tablets (1980 mg q12h) or Oral Solution (2000 mg q12h) to 15 healthy male volunteers, the mean urinary excretion of levocarnitine during a single dosing interval (12h) was about 9% of the orally administered dose (uncorrected for endogenous urinary excretion).
1. Bohmer, T., Rydning, A. and Solberg, H.E. 1974. Carnitine levels in human serum in health and disease. Clin. Chim. Acta 57:55-61.
2. Brooks, H., Goldberg, L., Holland, R. et al. 1977. Carnitine-induced effects on cardiac and peripheral hemodynamics. J. Clin. Pharmacol. 17:561-568.
3. Christiansen, R., Bremer, J. 1976. Active transport of butyrobetaine and carnitine into isolated liver cells. Biochim. Biophys. Acta 448:562-577.
4. Lindstedt, S. and Lindstedt, G. 1961. Distribution and excretion of carnitine in the rat. Acta Chem. Scand. 15:701-702.
5. Rebouche, C.J. and Engel, A.G. 1983. Carnitine metabolism and deficiency syndromes. Mayo Clin. Proc. 58:533-540.
6. Rebouche, C.J. and Paulson, D.J. 1986. Carnitine metabolism and function in humans. Ann. Rev. Nutr. 6:41-66.
7. Scriver, C.R., Beaudet, A.L., Sly, W.S. and Valle, D. 1989. The Metabolic Basis of Inherited Disease. New York: McGraw-Hill.
8. Schaub, J., Van Hoof, F. and Vis, H.L. 1991. Inborn Errors of Metabolism. New York: Raven Press.
9. Marzo, A., Arrigoni Martelli, E., Mancinelli, A., Cardace, G., Corbelletta, C., Bassani, E. and Solbiati, M. 1991. Protein binding of L-carnitine family components. Eur. J. Drug Met. Pharmacokin., Special Issue III: 364-368.
10. Rebouche, C.J. 1991. Quantitative estimation of absorption and degradation of a carnitine supplement by human adults. Metabolism 40:1305-1310.