NCLEX Drug Distribution Review

Bioavailability dependant on several things:

  1. Route of administration
  2. The drug’s ability to cross membranes
  3. The drug’s binding to plasma proteins and intracellular component

Membrane Review:

  1. Membranes separate the body in components
  2. The ability of membranes to act as barriers is related to its structure
  3. Lipid Soluable compounds (many drugs) pass through by becoming dissolved in the lipid bylayer.
  4. Glucose, H20, electrolytes can’t pass on their own. They use pores.
  5. In excitable tissues, the pores open and close.
  6. Movement occurs by:
    1. passive diffusion
    2. active transport
    3. facilitated diffusion
    4. endocytosis

Passive Diffusion Review:

  1. No energy expended.
  2. Weak acids and bases need to be in non-ionized form (no net charge).
  3. Drugs can also move between cell junctions.  BBB is exception.
  4. Must be lipid soluable to pass through pores.
  5. Osmosis is a special case of diffusion
    1. A drug dissolved in H2O will move with the water by “bulk flow”
    2. Usually limited to movement through gap junctions because size too large for pores.

Active Transport Review:

  1. Requires energy and requires a transport protein
  2. Drugs must be similar to some endogenous substance.
  3. Can carry substances against a gradient
  4. Some drugs may exert their effect by increasing or decreasing transport proteins.

Facilitated Diffusion Review:

  1. Requires transport protein
  2. Does not require energy
  3. Very few drugs move this way


  1. Drug gets engulfed by cell via invagination
  2. Very few drugs move this way and only in certain cells.

 Regulation of distribution determined by:

  1. Lipid permeability
  2. Blood flow
  3. Binding to plasma proteins
  4. Binding to subcellular components

Volume of Distribution (Vd) – is a calculation of where the drug is distributed.

Vd   = amount of drug given (mg)

concentration in plasma (mg/ml)

Calculate the Vd and compare to the total amount of body H20 in a person.

-if Vd = total amount of body (approx. 42) is uniformly distributed

-if Vd is less than 42 – retained in plasma and probably bound to plasma proteins

-if Vd is more than 42 – concentrated in tissues

This is not a “real value” but tells you where the drug is being distributed.

Placental Transfer of Drugs

  1. Some drugs cause congenital anomalies
  2. Cross placenta by simple diffusion
  3. Must be polar or lipid-insoluable Not to Enter
  4. Must assume the fetus is subjected to all drugs taken by the      mother to some extent.

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