Pharmacokinetics of Acetyl-L-Carnitine Given in Single or Multiple Doses to HIV-1 Infected Patients with Toxic Peripheral Polyneuropathy

C Herzmann1, *, S.J Whiting2, M Thomas2, P. Byrne2, M.A Johnson2, M Youle2
1 Vivantes Auguste Viktoria Klinikum, Rubensstr. 125, D-12157 Berlin, Germany
2 Royal Free Hospital, Centre for HIV Medicine, Royal Free Hospital, Pond Street, London, NW3 2QG, UK

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2008 Bentham Open

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestrictive use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Vivantes Auguste Viktoria Klinikum, Rubensstr. 125, D-12157 Berlin, Germany E-mail:


The use of nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors in the treatment of HIV infection is associated with antiretroviral toxic polyneuropathy (ATN). Previous studies suggest that long term treatment with Acetyl-L-carnitine (ALCAR) 1.5 gram twice daily improves symptoms and promotes nerve regeneration. It is unknown whether the drug’s pharmacokinetic profile would allow for a once daily administration. Twenty three HIV-1 infected subjects taking ALCAR for ATN were enrolled in a cross over trial and switched from twice to once daily dosing. Their regimen was changed from 1.5g twice daily to 1g (4 patients), 2g (7), and 3g (12) once daily, respectively. Twelve healthy volunteers served as control. Plasma levels of ALCAR and its metabolite L-carnitine were measured. Patients receiving ALCAR had higher pre-dose levels than control subjects. Post dose levels were not significantly higher than pre dose levels in any treatment group. The pre / post dose ALCAR concentrations were 7.6 / 7.7, 7.1 / 6.8, 7.7 / 6.8, and 7.1 / 7.5 µmol/l for 1.5g twice daily, 1g once daily, 2g once daily, and 3g once daily, respectively. All values were significantly higher than the mean concentration in the control group (4.3 µmol/l). For ALCAR and L-carnitine, measurements for once daily regimens did not differ from the twice daily regimen. Once daily dosing of ALCAR can achieve similar plasma levels as twice daily dosing but intra-mitochondrial levels remain unknown. The pharmacokinetic profile of orally administered ALCAR is complex and likely to be highly affected by endogenous concentrations.