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Gudmundur Johannsson, Ragnhildur Bergthorsdottir, Anna G Nilsson, Hans Lennernas, Thomas Hedner and Stanko Skrtic


Endogenous plasma cortisol levels have a well-defined circadian rhythm. The aim of this project is to develop a once daily oral dual-release formulation for cortisol replacement therapy that mimics the diurnal variation in the plasma cortisol profile.


To determine single-dose plasma pharmacokinetics and dose-proportionality of oral 5 and 20 mg dual-release hydrocortisone tablets in healthy volunteers. In addition, the effect of food intake was investigated for the 20 mg dose.


A randomised, controlled, two-way cross-over, double-blind, phase I study of oral hydrocortisone (modified (dual) release; 5 and 20 mg) with an open food-interaction arm.


The single dose pharmacokinetic studies were performed with betamethasone suppression. The two first study days were blinded and randomised between morning administration of 5 and 20 mg tablet in a fasting state. The third day was open with a 20 mg tablet taken 30 min after a high-calorie, high-fat meal. The plasma samples were assayed using both a validated LC–MS/MS and an immunoassay. The plasma pharmacokinetic variables were calculated using non-compartmental data analysis.


The time to reach a clinically significant plasma concentration of cortisol (>200 nmol/l) was within 20 min and a mean peak of 431 (s.d. 126) nmol/l was obtained within 50 min after administration of the 20 mg tablet. Plasma cortisol levels remained above 200 nmol/l for around 6 h thereafter and all plasma concentrations 18–24 h after intake were below 50 nmol/l. In the fed state the time to reach 200 nmol/l was delayed by 28 and 9 min based on LC–MS/MS and immunoassay, respectively. The 5 and 20 mg tablets produced an increase in plasma exposure of cortisol that was not fully dose proportional.


The dual release hydrocortisone tablet with once-daily administration produced a diurnal plasma cortisol profile mimicking the physiological serum cortisol profile.