A pharmacokinetic and tissue residue study was conducted to assess the risks associated with human consumption of polar bears in arctic Canada that have been exposed to the immobilizing drug Telazol®, a mixture of tiletamine hydrochloride and zolazepam hydrochloride. Twenty-two bears were remotely injected with about 10 mg/kg of Telazol®. Following immobilization, serum samples were collected serially at regular intervals until the bears awakened. Sixteen of the bears were relocated and killed under permit by local hunters at various times from 0.5 to 11 days after dosing. Serum, kidney, muscle and adipose tissue samples were collected immediately after death. All samples were stored at -70 C until analysis by HPLC. The concentration-time data of tiletamine and zolazepam in serum during the immobilization period were fitted to curves by computer and the pharmacokinetic parameters assessed. In addition, the serum and tissue samples collected at the time of death were analyzed for both parent drugs, for one metabolite of tiletamine (CI-398), and for three metabolites of zolazepam (metabolites 1, 2 and 4). A one-compartment model with first-order absorption and elimination best fit the time-series data for the drugs in serum during the immobilization period. This model gave half-lives (mean ± SE) for tiletamine and zolazepam of 1.8 ± 0.2 h and 1.2 ± 0.08 h, respectively, clearance values of 2.1 ± 0.3 1 h-1·kg-1 and 1.1 ± 0.1 1·h-1·kg-1, and volumes of distribution of 5.2 ± 0.6 1/kg and 1.8 ± 0.2 1/kg. The concentrations of both drugs and their metabolites declined rapidly to trace levels by 24 h post-dosing, although extremely low concentrations of some metabolites were encountered sporadically over the entire sampling period. In particular, zolazepam metabolite 2, remained detectable in fat and muscle tissue at the end of the study, 11 days after dosing. It was concluded that during immobilization, both tiletamine and zolazepam levels decline rapidly in a monoexponential fashion, and their pharmacokinetic parameters in polar bears are similar to those observed in other species. Tissue levels of the drugs and their metabolites declined sufficiently rapidly that individuals eating meat from exposed bears would be unlikely to experience pharmacological effects from the drugs. Nevertheless, slight exposure to the drugs and/or their metabolites might be possible for an indeterminate time after dosing.
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Vol. 36 • No. 4