12 CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY
12.1 Mechanism of Action
Heparin interacts with the naturally occurring plasma protein, Antithrombin III, to induce a conformational change, which markedly enhances the serine protease activity of Antithrombin II, thereby inhibiting the activated coagulation factors involved in the closing sequence, particularly Xa and IIa. Small amounts of heparin inhibit Factor Xa, and larger amounts inhibit thrombin (Factor IIa).
Heparin also prevents the formation of a stable fibrin clot by inhibiting the activation of the fibrin stabilizing factor. Heparin does not have fibrinolytic activity; therefore, it will not lyse existing clots.
Various times (activated clotting time, activated partial thromboplastin time, prothrombin time, whole blood clotting time) are prolonged by full therapeutic doses of heparin; in most cases, they are not measurably affected by low doses of heparin. Bleeding time is usually unaffected by heparin.
Heparin is not absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract and therefore administered via parenteral route. Peak plasma concentration and the onset of action are achieved immediately after intravenous administration.
Heparin is highly bound to antithrombin, fibrinogens, globulins, serum proteases and lipoproteins. The volume of distribution is 0.07 L/kg.
Heparin is mainly cleared from the circulation by liver and reticuloendothelial cells mediated uptake into extravascular space. Heparin undergoes biphasic clearance, a) rapid saturable clearance (zero order process due to binding to proteins, endothelial cells and macrophage) and b) slower first order elimination. The plasma half-life is dose-dependent and it ranges from 0.5 to 2 h.
Patients over 60 years of age, following similar doses of heparin, may have higher plasma levels of heparin and longer activated partial thromboplastin times (APTTs) compared with patients under 60 years of age [see Use in Specific Populations (8.5)].