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Plasma Clozapine, Norclozapine, and the Clozapine:Norclozapine Ratio in Relation to Prescribed Dose and Other Factors: Data From a Therapeutic Drug Monitoring Service, 1993–2007

Couchman, Lewis MSc*; Morgan, Phillip Edgar PhD*; Spencer, Edgar Pathrose PhD; Flanagan, Robert James PhD*

doi: 10.1097/FTD.0b013e3181dad1fb
Original Article

Therapeutic drug monitoring of plasma clozapine and of its principal plasma metabolite N-desmethylclozapine (norclozapine) (predose or “trough” sample) can help in monitoring adherence, in dose adjustment, and in minimizing the risk of toxicity. To obtain data to assist in the interpretation of analytical results, the results from a clozapine therapeutic drug monitoring service, 1993-2007, have been audited. There were 104,127 samples from 26,796 patients [18,750 (70%) men aged at time of first sample (median, range) 34 (10-89) years, and 7763 (30%) female aged 38 (12-90) years]. Clozapine was not detected (plasma concentration <0.01 mg/L) in 1.5% of samples (prescribed clozapine dose up to 900 mg/d). Plasma clozapine was either below 0.35 mg/L or greater than 0.60 mg/L in 42.5% and 28.4% of samples, respectively; in 0.4% samples plasma clozapine was 2.0 mg/L or more. Although plasma clozapine was broadly related to prescribed dose, there was much variation: 1.2% of samples had plasma clozapine >1.0 mg/L at prescribed clozapine doses up to 150 mg/d (76.2% < 0.35 mg/L), whereas 23.3% of samples had plasma clozapine < 0.35 mg/L at doses of 850 mg/d and over (18.0% > 1.0 mg/L). The highest plasma clozapine and norclozapine concentrations encountered were 4.95 and 2.45 mg/L, respectively. Although the median plasma clozapine:norclozapine ratio was 1.25 at plasma clozapine concentrations < 0.35 mg/L, the median ratio was 2.08 at plasma clozapine concentrations > 1.0 mg/L. Data (median, 10th-90th percentile) for both clozapine and norclozapine by prescribed clozapine dose band are useful in assessing partial adherence. Analysis of the plasma clozapine:norclozapine ratio by clozapine concentration provides clear evidence that clozapine N-demethylation becomes saturated at higher plasma clozapine concentrations and adds urgency to the requirement for dose adjustment should smoking habit change. A clozapine:norclozapine ratio greater then 2 suggests either a nontrough sample, or that clozapine N-demethylation has become saturated.

From the *Toxicology Unit, Department of Clinical Biochemistry, King's College Hospital NHS Foundation trust, London, UK; and †Medical Toxicology Laboratory, GSTS Pathology, St Thomas' Hospital, London, UK.

Received for publication November 27, 2009; accepted February 25, 2010.

Correspondence: Robert James Flanagan, PhD, Toxicology Unit, Department of Clinical Biochemistry, Third Floor, Bessemer Wing, King's College Hospital, Denmark Hill, London SE5 9RS, UK (e-mail:

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.