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Review Article

Non-clinical Models to Determine Drug Passage into Human Breast Milk

[ Vol. 25 , Issue. 5 ]


Domenico Ventrella, Monica Forni, Maria Laura Bacci and Pieter Annaert*   Pages 534 - 548 ( 15 )


Background: Successful practice of clinical perinatal pharmacology requires a thorough understanding of the pronounced physiological changes during lactation and how these changes affect various drug disposition processes. In addition, pharmacokinetic processes unique to lactation have remained understudied. Hence, determination of drug disposition mechanisms in lactating women and their babies remains a domain with important knowledge gaps. Indeed, lack of data regarding infant risk during breastfeeding far too often results in discontinuation of breastfeeding and subsequent loss of all the associated benefits to the breastfed infant. In the absence of age-specific toxicity data, human lactation data alone are considered insufficient to rapidly generate the required evidence regarding risks associated with medication use during lactation.

Methods: Systematic review of literature to summarize state-of-the art non-clinical approaches that have been developed to explore the mechanisms underlying drug milk excretion.

Results: Several studies have reported methods to predict (to some extent) milk drug excretion rates based on physicochemical properties of the compounds. In vitro studies with primary mammary epithelial cells appear excellent approaches to determine transepithelial drug transport rates across the mammary epithelium. Several of these in vitro tools have been characterized in terms of transporter expression and activity as compared to the mammary gland tissue. In addition, with the advent of physiology-based pharmacokinetic (PBPK) modelling, these in vitro transport data may prove instrumental in predicting drug milk concentration time profiles prior to the availability of data from clinical lactation studies. In vivo studies in lactating animals have proven their utility in elucidating the mechanisms underlying drug milk excretion.

Conclusion: By combining various non-clinical tools (physicochemistry-based, in vitro and PBPK, in vivo animal) for drug milk excretion, valuable and unique information regarding drug milk concentrations during lactation can be obtained. The recently approved IMI project ConcePTION will address several of the challenges outlined in this review.


Pharmacokinetics, lactation, breast milk, milk/plasma ratio, mammary epithelial cells, animal model, physiology-based pharmacokinetic modelling, relative infant dose.


University of Bologna, Department of Veterinary Medical Science, 40064 Ozzano Emilia Bologna, University of Bologna, Department of Veterinary Medical Science, 40064 Ozzano Emilia Bologna, University of Bologna, Department of Veterinary Medical Science, 40064 Ozzano Emilia Bologna, Drug Delivery and Disposition, KU Leuven Department of Pharmaceutical and Pharmacological Sciences, Herestraat 49-box 921, 3000 Leuven

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