Following the death due to cardiac arrest of a patient taking pimozide, sertraline and aripiprazole antipsychotic/antidepressant combination therapy, a role of drug-drug interaction was suggested. Here, we investigated P-glycoprotein (P-gp)-mediated interaction among the three drugs using in vitro methods. Sertraline or aripiprazole significantly increased the permeability of pimozide in Caco-2 cell monolayers. ATPase assay indicated that pimozide is a P-gp substrate, and might act as a P-gp inhibitor at higher concentrations. The values of the kinetic parameters of carrier-mediated efflux, calculated from the concentration dependence of pimozide efflux from LLC-GA5-COL150 cells expressing human P-gp, were as follows: maximum transport rate (J max ) = 84.9 ± 8.9 pmol/min/mg protein, half-saturation concentration (K t ) = 10.6 ± 4.7 μM, first-order rate constant (k d ) = 0.67 ± 0.14 pmol/min/mg protein. Further, the efflux ratio of pimozide in LLC-GA5-COL150 cells was significantly decreased in the presence of sertraline or aripiprazole. These results indicate that pimozide is a substrate of P-gp, and its efflux is inhibited by sertraline and aripiprazole. Thus, P-gp inhibition by sertraline and/or aripiprazole may alter the gastrointestinal permeability of co-administered pimozide, resulting in an increased blood concentration of pimozide, which may increase the likelihood of pimozide's known life-threatening side effect of QT prolongation.
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