Establishing virtual bioequivalence and clinically relevant specifications using in vitro biorelevant dissolution testing and physiologically-based population pharmacokinetic modeling. Case example: Naproxen

Ioannis Loisios-Konstantinidis, Rodrigo Cristofoletti, Nikoletta Fotaki, David B Turner, Jennifer Dressman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Physiologically-based population pharmacokinetic modeling (popPBPK) coupled with in vitro biopharmaceutics tools such as biorelevant dissolution testing can serve as a powerful tool to establish virtual bioequivalence and set clinically relevant specifications. One of several applications of popPBPK modeling is in the emerging field of virtual bioequivalence (VBE), where it can be used to streamline drug development by implementing model-informed formulation design and to inform regulatory decision-making e.g., with respect to evaluating the possibility of extending BCS-based biowaivers beyond BCS Class I and III compounds in certain cases. Methods: In this study, Naproxen, a BCS class II weak acid was chosen as the model compound. In vitro biorelevant solubility and dissolution experiments were performed and the resulting data were used as an input to the PBPK model, following a stepwise workflow for the confirmation of the biopharmaceutical parameters. The naproxen PBPK model was developed by implementing a middle-out approach and verified against clinical data obtained from the literature. Once confidence in the performance of the model was achieved, several in vivo dissolution scenarios, based on model-based analysis of the in vitro data, were used to simulate clinical trials in healthy adults. Inter-occasion variability (IOV) was also added to critical physiological parameters and mechanistically propagated through the simulations. The various trials were simulated on a “worst/best case” dissolution scenario and average bioequivalence was assessed according to C max, AUC and T max. Results: VBE results demonstrated that naproxen products with in vitro dissolution reaching 85% dissolved within 90 min would lie comfortably within the bioequivalence limits for C max and AUC. Based on the establishment of VBE, a dissolution “safe space” was designed and a clinically relevant specification for naproxen products was proposed. The interplay between formulation-related and drug-specific PK parameters (e.g., t1/2) to predict the in vivo performance was also investigated. Conclusion: Over a wide range of values, the in vitro dissolution rate is not critical for the clinical performance of naproxen products and therefore naproxen could be eligible for BCS-based biowaivers based on in vitro dissolution under intestinal conditions. This approach may also be applicable to other poorly soluble acidic compounds with long half-lives, providing an opportunity to streamline drug development and regulatory decision-making without putting the patient at a risk.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105170
JournalEuropean Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Early online date27 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2020


  • Biorelevant dissolution
  • Clinically relevant specifications
  • Dissolution safe-space
  • Modeling & simulation
  • PBPK
  • Virtual bioequivalence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmaceutical Science

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