TACROLIMUS- tacrolimus capsule
Accord Heathcare, Inc.

Rx Only


Increased susceptibility to infection and the possible development of lymphoma may result from immunosuppression. Only physicians experienced in immunosuppressive therapy and management of organ transplant patients should prescribe tacrolimus capsules. Patients receiving the drug should be managed in facilities equipped and staffed with adequate laboratory and supportive medical resources. The physician responsible for maintenance therapy should have complete information requisite for the follow-up of the patient.


Tacrolimus Capsule is available for oral administration containing the equivalent of 0.5 mg, 1 mg or 5 mg of monohydrate tacrolimus. Inactive ingredients include lactose monohydrate, hypromellose E5, croscarmellose sodium, and magnesium stearate. The 0.5 mg capsule shell contains gelatin, titanium dioxide, iron oxide yellow and sodium lauryl sulfate, the 1 mg capsule shell contains gelatin, titanium dioxide and sodium lauryl sulfate, and the 5 mg capsule shell contains gelatin, titanium dioxide, iron oxide red and sodium lauryl sulfate.

Tacrolimus, previously known as FK506, is the active ingredient in tacrolimus capsules. Tacrolimus is a macrolide immunosuppressant produced by Streptomyces tsukubaensis. Chemically, tacrolimus is designated as [3S -[3R *[E (1S *,3S *,4S *)], 4S *, 5R *,8S *,9E ,12R *,14R *,15S *,16R *,18S *,19S *,26aR *]]-5,6,8,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,24,25,26,26a-hexadecahydro-5,19-dihydroxy-3-[2-(4-hydroxy-3-methoxycyclohexyl)-1-methylethenyl]-14,16-dimethoxy-4,10,12,18-tetramethyl-8-(2-propenyl)-15,19-epoxy-3H-pyrido[2,1-c][1,4] oxaazacyclotricosine-1,7,20,21(4H,23H)-tetrone, monohydrate. The chemical structure of tacrolimus is:

(click image for full-size original)

Tacrolimus has an empirical formula of C44 H69 NO12 •H2 O and a formula weight of 822.03. Tacrolimus appears as white crystals or crystalline powder.It is practically insoluble in water, freely soluble in ethanol, and very soluble in methanol and chloroform.


Mechanism of Action

Tacrolimus prolongs the survival of the host and transplanted graft in animal transplant models of liver, kidney, bone marrow, small bowel and pancreas, lung and trachea, skin, cornea, and limb.

In animals, tacrolimus has been demonstrated to suppress some humoral immunity and, to a greater extent, cell-mediated reactions such as allograft rejection, delayed type hypersensitivity, collagen-induced arthritis, experimental allergic encephalomyelitis, and graft versus host disease.

Tacrolimus inhibits T-lymphocyte activation, although the exact mechanism of action is not known. Experimental evidence suggests that tacrolimus binds to an intracellular protein, FKBP-12. A complex of tacrolimus-FKBP-12, calcium, calmodulin, and calcineurin is then formed and the phosphatase activity of calcineurin inhibited. This effect may prevent the dephosphorylation and translocation of nuclear factor of activated T-cells (NF-AT), a nuclear component thought to initiate gene transcription for the formation of lymphokines (such as interleukin-2, gamma interferon). The net result is the inhibition of T-lymphocyte activation (i.e., immunosuppression).


Tacrolimus activity is primarily due to the parent drug. The pharmacokinetic parameters (mean±S.D.) of tacrolimus have been determined following intravenous (IV) and/or oral (PO) administration in healthy volunteers, and in kidney transplant, and liver transplant patients. (See table below.)

Population N Route (Dose) Parameters
Cmax (ng/mL) Tmax (hr) AUC (ng.hr/mL) t1/2 (hr) CI (L/hr/kg) V (L/kg)
HealthyVolunteers 8 IV (0.025 mg/kg/4hr) a a 598b ± 125 34.2± 7.7 0.040± 0.009 1.91±0.31
16 PO (5 mg) 29.7± 7.2 1.6± 0.7 243c ± 73 34.8±11.4 0.041d ± 0.008 1.94d ±0.53
KidneyTransplant Pts 26 IV (0.02 mg/kg/12 hr) a a 294e ± 262 18.8±16.7 0.083± 0.050 1.41±0.66
PO (0.2 mg/kg/day) 19.2± 10.3 3.0 203e ± 42 f f f
PO (0.3 mg/kg/day) 24.2± 15.8 1.5 288e ± 93 f f f
LiverTransplant Pts 17 IV (0.05 mg/kg/12 hr) a a 3300e ± 2130 11.7± 3.9 0.053± 0.017 0.85±0.30
PO (0.3 mg/kg/day) 68.5± 30.0 2.3± 1.5 519e ± 179 f f f

a) not applicable

b) AUC0 to 120

c) AUC0 to 72

d) Corrected for individual bioavailability

e) Auc0 to inf;

f) not available

Due to intersubject variability in tacrolimus pharmacokinetics, individualization of dosing regimen is necessary for optimal therapy. (See DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION). Pharmacokinetic data indicate that whole blood concentrations rather than plasma concentrations serve as the more appropriate sampling compartment to describe tacrolimus pharmacokinetics.


Absorption of tacrolimus from the gastrointestinal tract after oral administration is incomplete and variable. The absolute bioavailability of tacrolimus was 17±10% in adult kidney transplant patients (N=26), 22±6% in adult liver transplant patients (N=17), and 18±5% in healthy volunteers (N=16).

A single dose study conducted in 32 healthy volunteers established the bioequivalence of the 1 mg and 5 mg capsules. Another single dose study in 32 healthy volunteers established the bioequivalence of the 0.5 mg and 1 mg capsules. Tacrolimus maximum blood concentrations (Cmax ) and area under the curve (AUC) appeared to increase in a dose-proportional fashion in 18 fasted healthy volunteers receiving a single oral dose of 3, 7, and 10 mg.

In 18 kidney transplant patients, tacrolimus trough concentrations from 3 to 30 ng/mL measured at 10 to 12 hours post-dose (Cmin ) correlated well with the AUC (correlation coefficient 0.93). In 24 liver transplant patients over a concentration range of 10 to 60 ng/mL, the correlation coefficient was 0.94.

Food Effects

The rate and extent of tacrolimus absorption were greatest under fasted conditions. The presence and composition of food decreased both the rate and extent of tacrolimus absorption when administered to 15 healthy volunteers.

The effect was most pronounced with a high-fat meal (848 kcal, 46% fat): mean AUC and Cmax were decreased 37% and 77%, respectively; Tmax was lengthened 5-fold. A high-carbohydrate meal (668 kcal, 85% carbohydrate) decreased mean AUC and mean Cmax by 28% and 65%, respectively.

In healthy volunteers (N=16), the time of the meal also affected tacrolimus bioavailability. When given immediately following the meal, mean Cmax was reduced 71%, and mean AUC was reduced 39%, relative to the fasted condition. When administered 1.5 hours following the meal, mean Cmax was reduced 63%, and mean AUC was reduced 39%, relative to the fasted condition.

In 11 liver transplant patients, tacrolimus administered 15 minutes after a high fat (400 kcal, 34% fat) breakfast, resulted in decreased AUC (27±18%) and Cmax (50±19%), as compared to a fasted state.


The plasma protein binding of tacrolimus is approximately 99% and is independent of concentration over a range of 5 to 50 ng/mL. Tacrolimus is bound mainly to albumin and alpha-1-acid glycoprotein, and has a high level of association with erythrocytes. The distribution of tacrolimus between whole blood and plasma depends on several factors, such as hematocrit, temperature at the time of plasma separation, drug concentration, and plasma protein concentration. In a U.S. study, the ratio of whole blood concentration to plasma concentration averaged 35 (range 12 to 67).


Tacrolimus is extensively metabolized by the mixed-function oxidase system, primarily the cytochrome P-450 system (CYP3A). A metabolic pathway leading to the formation of 8 possible metabolites has been proposed. Demethylation and hydroxylation were identified as the primary mechanisms of biotransformation in vitro. The major metabolite identified in incubations with human liver microsomes is 13-demethyl tacrolimus. In in vitro studies, a 31-demethyl metabolite has been reported to have the same activity as tacrolimus.


The mean clearance following IV administration of tacrolimus is 0.040, 0.083, and 0.053 L/hr/kg in healthy volunteers, adult kidney transplant patients, and adult liver transplant patients respectively. In man, less than 1% of the dose administered is excreted unchanged in urine.

In a mass balance study of IV administered radiolabeled tacrolimus to 6 healthy volunteers, the mean recovery of radiolabel was 77.8±12.7%. Fecal elimination accounted for 92.4±1.0% and the elimination half-life based on radioactivity was 48.1±15.9 hours whereas it was 43.5±11.6 hours based on tacrolimus concentrations. The mean clearance of radiolabel was 0.029±0.015 L/hr/kg and clearance of tacrolimus was 0.029±0.009 L/hr/kg. When administered PO, the mean recovery of the radiolabel was 94.9±30.7%. Fecal elimination accounted for 92.6±30.7%, urinary elimination accounted for 2.3±1.1% and the elimination half-life based on radioactivity was 31.9±10.5 hours whereas it was 48.4±12.3 hours based on tacrolimus concentrations. The mean clearance of radiolabel was 0.226±0.116 L/hr/kg and clearance of tacrolimus 0.172±0.088 L/hr/kg.

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