Drug Res (Stuttg) 2017; 67(09): 539-546
DOI: 10.1055/s-0043-110144
Original Article
© Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

Large Intra-subject Variability in Caffeine Pharmacokinetics: Randomized Cross-over Study of Single Caffeine Product

Muhammad M Hammami
Clinical Studies and Empirical Ethics Department, King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center
Alfaisal University College of Medicine, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Syed N Alvi
Clinical Studies and Empirical Ethics Department, King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center
› Author Affiliations
Further Information

Publication History

received 13 March 2017

accepted 27 April 2017

Publication Date:
23 May 2017 (eFirst)


Background Average bioequivalence has been criticized for not adequately addressing individual variations. Importance of subjects’ blinding in bioequivalence studies has not been well studied. We explored the extent of intra-subject pharmacokinetic variability and effect of drug-ingestion unawareness in subjects taking single caffeine product.

Methods A single-dose randomized cross-over design was used to compare pharmacokinetics of 200 mg caffeine, described as caffeine (overt) or as placebo (covert). Maximum concentration (Cmax), Cmax first time (Tmax), area-under-the-concentration-time-curve, to last measured concentration (AUCT), extrapolated to infinity (AUCI), or to Tmax of overt caffeine (AUCOverttmax), and Cmax/AUCI were calculated blindly using standard non-compartmental method. Percentages of individual covert/overt ratios that are outside the ±25% range were determined. Covert-vs-overt effect on caffeine pharmacokinetics was evaluated by 90% confidence interval (CI) and 80.00–125.00% bioequivalence range.

Results 32 healthy subjects (6% females, mean (SD) age 33.3 (7.2) year) participated in the study (28 analysed). Out of the 28 individual covert/overt ratios, 23% were outside the ±25% range for AUCT, 30% for AUCI, 20% for AUCOverttmax, 30% for Cmax, and 43% for Tmax. There was no significant covert-vs-overt difference in any of the pharmacokinetic parameters studied. Further, the 90% CIs for AUCT, AUCI, Cmax, AUCOverttmax, and Cmax/AUCI were all within the 80.00–125.00% bioequivalence range with mean absolute deviation of covert/overt ratios of 3.31%, 6.29%, 1.43%, 1.87%, and 5.19%, respectively.

Conclusions Large intra-subject variability in main caffeine pharmacokinetic parameters was noted when comparing an oral caffeine product to itself. Subjects’ blinding may not be important in average bioequivalence studies.