Milk is an attractive lipid-based formulation for the delivery of poorly water-soluble drugs to pediatric populations. We recently observed that solubilization of artefenomel (OZ439) during in vitro intestinal lipolysis was driven by digestion of triglycerides in full-cream bovine milk, reflecting the ability of milk to act as an enabling formulation in the clinic. However, when OZ439 was co-administered with a second antimalarial drug, ferroquine (FQ) the exposure of OZ439 was reduced. The current study therefore aimed to understand the impact of the presence of FQ on the solubilization of OZ439 in milk during in vitro intestinal digestion. Synchrotron small-angle X-ray scattering was used for in situ monitoring of drug solubilization (inferred via decreases in the intensity of drug diffraction peaks) and polymorphic transformations that occurred during the course of digestion. Quantification of the amount of each drug solubilized over time and analysis of their distributions across the separated phases of digested milk were determined using high-performance liquid chromatography. The results show that FQ reduced the solubilization of OZ439 during milk digestion, which may be due to competitive binding of FQ to the digested milk products. Interactions between the protonated FQ-H+ and ionized liberated free fatty acids resulted in the formation of amorphous salts, which removes the low-energy crystalline state as a barrier to dissolution of FQ, while inhibiting the solubilization of OZ439. We conclude that although milk could enhance the solubilization of poorly water-soluble OZ439 during in vitro digestion principally due to the formation of fatty acids, the solubilization efficiency was reduced by the presence of FQ by competition for the available fatty acids. Assessment of the solubilization of both drugs during digestion of fixed-dose combination lipid formulations (such as milk) is important and may rationalize changes in bioavailability when compared to that of the individual drugs in the same formulation.
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