The transfer of cocaine and its metabolites across the term human placenta

Steven Schenker, Yiqian Yang, Raymond F. Johnson, John W. Downing, Robert S. Schenken, George I. Henderson, Thomas S. King

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


This study defines human placental transport of cocaine and its two minor, but pharmacologically active, metabolites—norcocaine and cocaethylene. The experimental system was the single, isolated perfused cotyledon of a normal term human placenta, and antipyrine served as a freely diffusible marker. Cocaine was transferred rapidly by the placenta at a rate about 80% that of antipyrine. The transfer had characteristics of passive transport consistent with the high lipid solubility of the drug. We found no evidence of significant placental metabolism of cocaine during its rapid placental transfer. Ethanol did not alter the cocaine transfer rate. Norcocaine and cocaethylene were equally as rapidly transferred. Thus the placenta is no barrier to the transfer of cocaine and its derivatives to the fetus. Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics (1993) 53, 329–339; doi:

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-339
Number of pages11
JournalClinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1993

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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