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Mechanism of Antiviral Action: Acyclovir is a synthetic purine nucleoside analogue with in vitro and in vivo inhibitory activity against herpes simplex virus types 1 (HSV-1), 2 (HSV-2), and varicella-zoster virus (VZV).
The inhibitory activity of acyclovir is highly selective due to its affinity for the enzyme thymidine kinase (TK) encoded by HSV and VZV. This viral enzyme converts acyclovir into acyclovir monophosphate, a nucleotide analogue. The monophosphate is further converted into diphosphate by cellular guanylate kinase and into triphosphate by a number of cellular enzymes. In vitro, acyclovir triphosphate stops replication of herpes viral DNA. This is accomplished in 3 ways: 1) competitive inhibition of viral DNA polymerase, 2) incorporation into and termination of the growing viral DNA chain, and 3) inactivation of the viral DNA polymerase. The greater antiviral activity of acyclovir against HSV compared with VZV is due to its more efficient phosphorylation by the viral TK.
Antiviral Activities: The quantitative relationship between the in vitro susceptibility of herpes viruses to antivirals and the clinical response to therapy has not been established in humans, and virus sensitivity testing has not been standardized. Sensitivity testing results, expressed as the concentration of drug required to inhibit by 50% the growth of virus in cell culture (IC50), vary greatly depending upon a number of factors. Using plaque-reduction assays, the IC50 against herpes simplex virus isolates ranges from 0.02 to 13.5 mcg/mL for HSV-1 and from 0.01 to 9.9 mcg/mL for HSV-2. The IC50 for acyclovir against most laboratory strains and clinical isolates of VZV ranges from 0.12 to 10.8 mcg/mL. Acyclovir also demonstrates activity against the Oka vaccine strain of VZV with a mean IC50 of 1.35 mcg/mL.
Drug Resistance:Resistance of HSV and VZV to acycl ovir can result from qualitative and quantitative changes in the viral TK and/or DNA polymerase. Clinical isolates of HSV and VZV with reduced susceptibility to acyclovir have been recovered from immunocompromised patients, especially with advanced HIV infection. While most of the acyclovir-resistant mutants isolated thus far from immunocompromised patients have been found to be TK-deficient mutants, other mutants involving the viral TK gene (TK partial and TK altered) and DNA polymerase have been isolated. TK-negative mutants may cause severe disease in infants and immunocompromised adults. The possibility of viral resistance to acyclovir should be considered in patients who show poor clinical response during therapy.
The pharmacokinetics of acyclovir after oral administration have been evaluated in healthy volunteers and in immunocompromised patients with herpes simplex or varicella-zoster virus infection. Acyclovir pharmacokinetic parameters are summarized in Table 1.
Table 1. Acyclovir Pharmacokinetic Characteristics (Range)
|Plasma protein binding||9% to 33%|
|Plasma elimination half-life||2.5 to 3.3 hr|
|Average oral bioavailability||10% to 20%*|
|*Bioavailability decreases with increasing dose.|
In one multiple-dose, crossover study in healthy subjects (n = 23), it was shown that increases in plasma acyclovir concentrations were less than dose proportional with increasing dose, as shown in Table 2. The decrease in bioavailability is a function of the dose and not the dosage form.
Table 2. Acyclovir Peak and Trough Concentrations at Steady
|Parameter||200 mg||400 mg||800 mg|
|C ss max||0.83 mcg/mL||1.21 mcg/mL||1.61 mcg/mL|
|C ss trough||0.46 mcg/mL||0.63 mcg/mL||0.83 mcg/mL|
There was no effect of food on the absorption of acyclovir (n = 6); therefore, ZOVIRAX (acyclovir) Capsules, Tablets, and Suspension may be administered with or without food. The only known urinary metabolite is 9-[(carboxymethoxy)methyl]guanine.
Adults With Impaired Renal Function: The half-life and total body clearance of acyclovir are dependent on renal function. A dosage adjustment is recommended for patients with reduced renal function (see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION).
Geriatrics: Acyclovir plasma concentrations are highe r in geriatric patients compared with younger adults, in part due to age-related changes in renal function. Dosage reduction may be required in geriatric patients with underlying renal impairment (see PRECAUTIONS: Geriatric Use).
Pediatrics: In general, the pharmacokinetics of acyclov ir in pediatric patients is similar to that of adults. Mean half-life after oral doses of 300 mg/m2 and 600 mg/m2 in pediatric patients aged 7 months to 7 years was 2.6 hours (range 1.59 to 3.74 hours).
Coadministration of probenecid with intravenous acyclovir has been shown to increase the mean acyclovir half-life and the area under the concentration-time curve. Urinary excretion and renal clearance were correspondingly reduced.
Initial Genital Herpes: Double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have demonstrated that orally administered ZOVIRAX (acyclovir) significantly reduced the duration of acute infection and duration of lesion healing. The duration of pain and new lesion formation was decreased in some patient groups.
Recurrent Genital Herpes: Double-blind, placebo-controlled studies in patients with frequent recurrences (6 or more episodes per year) have shown that orally administered ZOVIRAX (acyclovir) given daily for 4 months to 10 years prevented or reduced the frequency and/or severity of recurrences in greater than 95% of patients.
In a study of patients who received ZOVIRAX (acyclovir) 400 mg twice daily for 3 years, 45%, 52%, and 63% of patients remained free of recurrences in the first, second, and third years, respectively. Serial analyses of the 3-month recurrence rates for the patients showed that 71% to 87% were recurrence free in each quarter.
Herpes Zoster Infections: In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of immunocompetent patients with localized cutaneous zoster infection, ZOVIRAX (acyclovir) (800 mg 5 times daily for 10 days) shortened the times to lesion scabbing, healing, and complete cessation of pain, and reduced the duration of viral shedding and the duration of new lesion formation.
In a similar double-blind, placebo-controlled study, ZOVIRAX (acyclovir) (800 mg 5 times daily for 7 days) shortened the times to complete lesion scabbing, healing, and cessation of pain; reduced the duration of new lesion formation; and reduced the prevalence of localized zoster-associated neurologic symptoms (paresthesia, dysesthesia, or hyperesthesia).
Treatment was begun within 72 hours of rash onset and was most effective if started within the first 48 hours.
Adults greater than 50 years of age showed greater benefit.
Chickenpox: Three randomized, double-blind, placebo-c ontrolled trials were conducted in 993 pediatric patients aged 2 to 18 years with chickenpox. All patients were treated within 24 hours after the onset of rash. In 2 trials, ZOVIRAX (acyclovir) was administered at 20 mg/kg 4 times daily (up to 3,200 mg per day) for 5 days. In the third trial, doses of 10, 15, or 20 mg/kg were administered 4 times daily for 5 to 7 days. Treatment with ZOVIRAX (acyclovir) shortened the time to 50% healing; reduced the maximum number of lesions; reduced the median number of vesicles; decreased the median number of residual lesions on day 28; and decreased the proportion of patients with fever, anorexia, and lethargy by day 2. Treatment with ZOVIRAX (acyclovir) did not affect varicella-zoster virus-specific humoral or cellular immune responses at 1 month or 1 year following treatment.
Last reviewed on RxList: 11/8/2010
This monograph has been modified to include the generic and brand name in many instances.
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