July 27, 2016
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Mechanism Of Action

Palivizumab is a recombinant humanized monoclonal antibody with anti-RSV activity [see Microbiology].


In children less than or equal to 24 months of age without congenital heart disease (CHD), the mean half-life of palivizumab was 20 days and monthly intramuscular doses of 15 mg per kg achieved mean ± SD 30 day trough serum drug concentrations of 37 ± 21 mcg per mL after the first injection, 57 ± 41 mcg per mL after the second injection, 68 ± 51 mcg per mL after the third injection, and 72 ± 50 mcg per mL after the fourth injection. Trough concentrations following the first and fourth Synagis dose were similar in children with CHD and in non-cardiac patients. In children given Synagis for a second season, the mean ± SD serum concentrations following the first and fourth injections were 61 ± 17 mcg per mL and 86 ± 31 mcg per mL, respectively.

In 139 children less than or equal to 24 months of age with hemodynamically significant CHD who received Synagis and underwent cardio-pulmonary bypass for open-heart surgery, the mean ± SD serum palivizumab concentration was 98 ± 52 mcg per mL before bypass and declined to 41 ± 33 mcg per mL after bypass, a reduction of 58% [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION]. The clinical significance of this reduction is unknown.

Specific studies were not conducted to evaluate the effects of demographic parameters on palivizumab systemic exposure. However, no effects of gender, age, body weight, or race on palivizumab serum trough concentrations were observed in a clinical study with 639 children with CHD (less than or equal to 24 months of age) receiving five monthly intramuscular injections of 15 mg per kg of Synagis.

The pharmacokinetics and safety of Synagis liquid solution and Synagis lyophilized formulation administered via intramuscular injection at 15 mg per kg were studied in a cross-over trial of 153 infants less than or equal to 6 months of age with a history of prematurity. The results of this trial indicated that the trough serum concentrations of palivizumab were comparable between the liquid solution and the lyophilized formulation, which was the formulation used in the clinical studies.

A population pharmacokinetic analysis was performed across 22 studies in 1800 patients (1684 pediatric and 116 adult patients) to characterize palivizumab pharmacokinetics and inter-subject variability in serum concentrations. Palivizumab pharmacokinetics was described by a two-compartment linear model with an elimination half-life of 24.5 days in pediatric patients. Clearance of palivizumab in a typical pediatric patient (body weight 4.5 kg) less than or equal to 24 months of age without CHD was estimated to be 11 mL per day with a bioavailability of 70% following intramuscular administration. The inter-patient variability in drug clearance was 48.7% (CV%). Covariate analysis did not identify any factors that could account for the inter-patient variability in order to predict serum concentrations a priori in an individual patient.


Mechanism Of Action

Palivizumab, a recombinant humanized monoclonal antibody which provides passive immunity against RSV, acts by binding the RSV envelope fusion protein (RSV F) on the surface of the virus and blocking a critical step in the membrane fusion process. Palivizumab also prevents cell-to-cell fusion of RSV-infected cells.

Antiviral Activity

The antiviral activity of palivizumab was assessed in a microneutralization assay in which increasing concentrations of antibody were incubated with RSV prior to addition of the human epithelial cells HEp-2. After incubation for 4-5 days, RSV antigen was measured in an ELISA assay. The neutralization titer (50% effective concentration [EC50]) is expressed as the antibody concentration required to reduce detection of RSV antigen by 50% compared with untreated virus-infected cells. Palivizumab exhibited median EC50 values of 0.65 mcg per mL (mean 0.75 ± 0.53 mcg per mL; n=69, range 0.07-2.89 mcg per mL) and 0.28 mcg per mL (mean 0.35 ± 0.23 mcg per mL; n=35, range 0.03-0.88 mcg per mL) against clinical RSV A and RSV B isolates, respectively. The majority of clinical RSV isolates tested (n=96) were collected from subjects across the United States (CA, CO, CT, IL, MA, NC, NY, PA, RI, TN, TX, VA), with the remainder from Japan (n=1), Australia (n=5) and Israel (n=2). These isolates encoded the most common RSV F sequence polymorphisms found among clinical isolates worldwide.

Palivizumab serum concentrations of greater than or equal to 40 mcg per mL have been shown to reduce pulmonary RSV replication in the cotton rat model of RSV infection by 100-fold.


Palivizumab binds a highly conserved region on the extracellular domain of mature RSV F, referred to as antigenic site II or site A, which encompasses amino acids 262 to 275. All RSV mutants that exhibit resistance to palivizumab have been shown to contain amino acid changes in this region on the F protein.

F protein sequence variations within antigenic site A: Amino acid substitutions in antigenic site A selected either in cell culture, in animal models, or in human subjects that resulted in palivizumab resistance were N262D, N268I, K272E/M/N/Q/T, and S275F/L. RSV variants expressing the K272N substitution in F protein showed a 5164 ± 1731-fold decrease in susceptibility (i.e., fold increase in EC50 value) when compared to the wild-type RSV, while variants containing the N262D, S275F/L, or K272E/M/Q/T substitutions showed a greater than 25,000-fold decrease in susceptibility to palivizumab. The N268I substitution conferred partial resistance to palivizumab; however, fold changes in susceptibility were not quantified for this mutant. Studies carried out to investigate the mechanism of virus escape from palivizumab showed a correlation between antibody binding and virus neutralization. RSV with substitutions in antigenic site A that were resistant to neutralization by palivizumab did not bind to palivizumab.

At least one of the palivizumab resistance-associated substitutions, N262D, K272E/Q, or S275F/L was identified in 8 of 126 clinical RSV (59 RSV A and 67 RSV B) isolates from subjects who failed immunoprophylaxis, resulting in a combined resistance-associated mutation frequency of 6.3%. A review of clinical findings revealed no association between antigenic A site sequence changes and RSV disease severity among children receiving palivizumab immunoprophylaxis who develop RSV lower respiratory tract disease.

Analysis of 254 clinical RSV isolates (145 RSV A and 109 RSV B) collected from immunoprophylaxisna´ve subjects revealed palivizumab resistance-associated substitutions in 2 (1 with N262D and 1 with S275F), resulting in a resistance-associated mutation frequency of 0.79%.

F protein sequence variations outside antigenic site A: In addition to the sequence variations in antigenic site A known to confer palivizumab resistance, F protein substitutions T100A, G139S, N165D/V406I; T326A, V450A in RSV A, and T74I, A147V, I206L, S285G, V450I, T455I in RSV B were identified in viruses isolated from failures of immunoprophylaxis. These substitutions were not identified in RSV F sequences derived from 254 clinical isolates from immunoprophylaxis-na´ve subjects and thus are considered treatment-associated and non-polymorphic. Recombinant RSV B encoding the S285G substitution exhibited palivizumab sensitivity (EC50 value = 0.39 ± 0.02 mcg per mL) similar to recombinant wild-type RSV B (EC50 value = 0.17 ± 0.02 mcg per mL).

Palivizumab susceptibility of RSV encoding common F protein sequence polymorphisms located proximal to antigenic site A was evaluated. Recombinant RSV A encoding N276S (EC50 value = 0.72 ± 0.07 mcg per mL), and recombinant RSV B with S276N (EC50 value = 0.42 ± 0.04 mcg per mL), exhibited sensitivities comparable to the corresponding recombinant wild-type RSV A (EC50 value = 0.63 ± 0.22 mcg per mL) and RSV B (EC50 value = 0.23 ± 0.07 mcg per mL). Likewise, RSV B clinical isolates containing the polymorphic variation V278A were at least as sensitive to neutralization by palivizumab (EC50 range 0.08-0.45 mcg per mL) as laboratory strains of wild-type RSV B (EC50 value = 0.54 ± 0.08 mcg per mL). No known polymorphic or non-polymorphic sequence variations outside the antigenic site A on RSV F have been demonstrated to render RSV resistant to neutralization by palivizumab.

Interference of RSV Diagnostic Assays by Palivizumab

Interference with immunologically-based RSV diagnostic assays by palivizumab has been observed in laboratory studies. Rapid chromatographic/enzyme immunoassays (CIA/EIA), immunofluorescence assays (IFA), and direct immunofluorescence assays (DFA) using monoclonal antibodies targeting RSV F protein may be inhibited. Therefore, caution should be used in interpreting negative immunological assay results when clinical observations are consistent with RSV infection. A reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay, which is not inhibited by palivizumab, may prove useful for laboratory confirmation of RSV infection [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS].

Clinical Studies

The safety and efficacy of Synagis were assessed in two randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials of prophylaxis against RSV infection in children at high risk of an RSV-related hospitalization. Trial 1 was conducted during a single RSV season and studied a total of 1502 children less than or equal to 24 months of age with BPD or infants with premature birth (less than or equal to 35 weeks gestation) who were less than or equal to 6 months of age at study entry. Trial 2 was conducted over four consecutive seasons among a total of 1287 children less than or equal to 24 months of age with hemodynamically significant congenital heart disease. In both trials participants received 15 mg per kg Synagis or an equivalent volume of placebo via intramuscular injection monthly for five injections and were followed for 150 days from randomization. In Trial 1, 99% of all subjects completed the study and 93% completed all five injections. In Trial 2, 96% of all subjects completed the study and 92% completed all five injections. The incidence of RSV hospitalization is shown in Table 1. The results were shown to be statistically significant using Fisher's exact test.

Table 1: Incidence of RSV Hospitalization by Treatment Group

Trial    Placebo  Synagis  Difference Between Groups  Relative Reduction 
Trial 1 Impact-RSV  500 1002    
Hospitalization  53 (10.6%)  48 (4.8%)  5.80% 55%
Trial 2 CHD   648 639  
Hospitalization  63 (9.7%)  34 (5.3%)  4.40% 45%

In Trial 1, the reduction of RSV hospitalization was observed both in children with BPD (34/266 [12.8%] placebo versus 39/496 [7.9%] Synagis) and in premature infants without BPD (19/234 [8.1%] placebo versus 9/506 [1.8%] Synagis). In Trial 2, reductions were observed in acyanotic (36/305 [11.8%] placebo versus 15/300 [5.0%] Synagis) and cyanotic children (27/343 [7.9%] placebo versus 19/339 [5.6%] Synagis).

The clinical studies do not suggest that RSV infection was less severe among children hospitalized with RSV infection who received Synagis for RSV prophylaxis compared to those who received placebo.

Last reviewed on RxList: 4/10/2014
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.

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