Journal article Open Access
Benzodiazepines are currently among the most frequently prescribed drugs all over the world. They act as anxiolytics, sedatives, hypnotics, amnesics, antiepileptics and muscle relaxants. Despite their common chemical scaffold, these drugs differ in their pharmacokinetic and metabolic properties. In particular, they are biotransformed by different cytochrome P450 isoforms and also by different UDP-glucuronosyltransferase subtypes. The most important studies on the metabolic characteristics of several 1,4-benzodiazepines, carried out from 1998 onwards, are reported and briefly discussed in this review. Moreover, the analytical methods related to these studies are also described and commented upon and their most important characteristics are highlighted. Most methods are based on liquid chromatography, which provides wide applicability and good analytical performance granting high precision, accuracy and feasibility. Mass spectrometry is gaining widespread acceptance, particularly if the matrix is very complex and variable, such as human or animal blood. However, spectrophotometric detection is still used for this purpose and can grant sufficient selectivity and sensitivity when coupled to suitable sample pre-treatment procedures. A monograph is included for each of the following benzodiazepines: alprazolam, bromazepam, brotizolam, clotiazepam, diazepam, etizolam, flunitrazepam, lorazepam, midazolam, oxazepam and triazolam.