Plasma Protein Binding of Drugs in Pregnancy

Emilio Perucca, Antonio Crema

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The degree of binding to plasma proteins is an important determinant of drug disposition and response. Normal human pregnancy is associated with considerable changes in the concentration of plasma proteins, free fatty acids and possibly other endogenous substances interfering with drug binding. The possibility of an associated change in plasma binding capacity therefore needs to be taken into consideration. Experimental studies conducted mostly in vitro have shown that the plasma protein binding of many (but not all) drugs is decreased during pregnancy, particularly during the last trimester. This phenomenon should be taken into account when interpreting serum concentrations of total (free + protein-bound) drug in clinical practice. Notable examples of drugs whose unbound fraction increases during pregnancy include diazepam, valproic acid, phenytoin, phenobarbitone, salicylic acid, pethidine, lignocaine, dexamethasone, sulphafurazole and propranolol. For many drugs, important differences have been demonstrated in the degree of protein binding between maternal and cord plasma. In some cases, this may provide an explanation for the finding of marked differences in total drug concentration between maternal and fetal plasma at the time of delivery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)336-352
Number of pages17
JournalClinical Pharmacokinetics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1982

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)


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