Pharmacotherapeutic group: Antivirals for systemic use. Nucleosides and nucleotides excluding reverse transcriptase inhibitors. ATC code: J05AB11.
Pharmacology: Pharmacodynamics: Mechanism of action: Valaciclovir, an antiviral, is the L-valine ester of aciclovir. Aciclovir is a purine (guanine) nucleoside analogue.
Valaciclovir is rapidly and almost completely converted in man to aciclovir and valine, probably by the enzyme referred to as valaciclovir hydrolase.
Aciclovir is a specific inhibitor of the herpes viruses with in vitro activity against herpes simplex viruses (HSV) type 1 and type 2, varicella zoster virus (VZV), cytomegalovirus (CMV), Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV), and human herpes virus 6 (HHV-6). Aciclovir inhibits herpes virus DNA synthesis once it has been phosphorylated to the active triphosphate form.
The first stage of phosphorylation requires the activity of a virus-specific enzyme. In the case of HSV, VZV and EBV this enzyme is the viral thymidine kinase (TK), which is only present in virus infected cells. Selectivity is maintained in CMV with phosphorylation, at least in part, being mediated through the phosphotransferase gene product of UL97. This requirement for activation of aciclovir by a virus specific enzyme largely explains its selectivity.
The phosphorylation process is completed (conversion from mono- to triphosphate) by cellular kinases. Aciclovir triphosphate competitively inhibits the virus DNA polymerase and incorporation of this nucleoside analogue results in obligate chain termination, halting virus DNA synthesis and thus blocking virus replication.
Pharmacodynamic effects: Resistance is normally due to a thymidine kinase deficient phenotype which results in a virus which is disadvantaged in the natural host. Reduced sensitivity to aciclovir has been described as a result of subtle alterations in either the virus thymidine kinase or DNA polymerase. The virulence of these variants resembles that of the wild-type virus.
Monitoring of clinical HSV and VZV isolates from patients receiving aciclovir therapy or prophylaxis has revealed that virus with reduced sensitivity to aciclovir is extremely rare in the immunocompetent and is found infrequently in severely immunocompromised individuals e.g. organ or bone marrow transplant recipients, patients receiving chemotherapy for malignant disease and people infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Clinical studies: Varicella Zoster Virus Infection: Valtrex accelerates the resolution of pain: it reduces the duration of and the proportion of patients with zoster-associated pain, which includes acute and, in patients older than 50 years, also post-herpetic neuralgia. Valtrex reduces the risk of ocular complications of ophthalmic zoster.
Intravenous therapy generally is considered standard for zoster treatment in immunocompromised patients; however, limited data indicate a clinical benefit of valaciclovir in the treatment of VZV infection (herpes zoster) in certain immunocompromised patients, including those with solid organ cancer, HIV, autoimmune diseases, lymphoma, leukaemia and stem cell transplants.
Herpes Simplex Virus Infection: Valaciclovir for ocular HSV infections should be given according to applicable treatment guidelines.
Studies of valaciclovir treatment and suppression for genital herpes were performed in HIV/HSV coinfected patients with a median CD4 count of > 100cells/mm3. Valaciclovir 500 mg twice daily was superior to 1000 mg once daily for suppression of symptomatic recurrences. Valaciclovir 1000 mg twice daily for treatment of recurrences was comparable to oral aciclovir 200 mg five times daily on herpes episode duration. Valaciclovir has not been studied in patients with severe immune deficiency.
The efficacy of valaciclovir for the treatment of other HSV skin infections has been documented. Valaciclovir has shown efficacy in the treatment of herpes labialis (cold sores), mucositis due to chemotherapy or radiotherapy, HSV reactivation from facial resurfacing, and herpes gladiatorum. Based on historical aciclovir experience, valaciclovir appears to be as effective as aciclovir for the treatment of erythema multiforme, eczema herpeticum and herpetic whitlow.
Valaciclovir has been proven to reduce the risk of transmission of genital herpes in immunocompetent adults when taken as suppressive therapy and combined with safer sex practices. A double blind, placebo controlled study was conducted in 1,484 heterosexual, immunocompetent adult couples discordant for HSV-2 infection. Results showed significant reductions in risk of transmission: 75 % (symptomatic HSV-2 acquisition), 50 % (HSV-2 seroconversion), and 48 % (overall HSV-2 acquisition) for valaciclovir compared to placebo. Among subjects participating in a viral shedding sub-study, valaciclovir significantly reduced shedding by 73 % compared to placebo (see Precautions for additional information on transmission reduction).
Cytomegalovirus Infection (see Precautions): CMV prophylaxis with valaciclovir in subjects receiving solid organ transplantation (kidney, heart) reduces the occurrence of acute graft rejection, opportunistic infections and other herpes virus infections (HSV, VZV). There is no direct comparative study versus valganciclovir to define the optimal therapeutic management of solid organ transplant patients.
Pharmacokinetics: Absorption: Valaciclovir is a prodrug of aciclovir. The bioavailability of aciclovir from valaciclovir is about 3.3 to 5.5-fold greater than that historically observed for oral aciclovir. After oral administration valaciclovir is well absorbed and rapidly and almost completely converted to aciclovir and valine. This conversion is probably mediated by an enzyme isolated from human liver referred to as valaciclovir hydrolase. The bioavailability of aciclovir from 1000 mg valaciclovir is 54%, and is not reduced by food. Valaciclovir pharmacokinetics is not dose-proportional. The rate and extent of absorption decreases with increasing dose, resulting in a less than proportional increase in Cmax over the therapeutic dose range and a reduced bioavailability at doses above 500 mg. Aciclovir pharmacokinetic (PK) parameter estimates following single doses of 250 to 2000 mg valaciclovir to healthy subjects with normal renal function are shown below. (See Table 1.)
Click on icon to see table/diagram/image
Peak plasma concentrations of unchanged valaciclovir are only 4% of peak aciclovir levels, occur at a median time of 30 to 100 min post-dose, and are at or below the limit of quantification 3 h after dosing. The valaciclovir and aciclovir pharmacokinetic profiles are similar after single and repeat dosing. Herpes zoster, herpes simplex and HIV infection do not significantly alter the pharmacokinetics of valaciclovir and aciclovir after oral administration of valaciclovir compared with healthy adults. In transplant recipients receiving valaciclovir 2000 mg 4 times daily, aciclovir peak concentrations are similar to or greater than those in healthy volunteers receiving the same dose. The estimated daily AUCs are appreciably greater.
Distribution: Binding of valaciclovir to plasma proteins is very low (15%). CSF penetration, determined by CSF/plasma AUC ratio, is independent of renal function and was about 25% for aciclovir and the metabolite 8-OH-ACV, and about 2.5% for the metabolite CMMG.
Biotransformation: After oral administration, valaciclovir is converted to aciclovir and L-valine by first-pass intestinal and/or hepatic metabolism. Aciclovir is converted to a small extent to the metabolites 9(carboxymethoxy)methylguanine (CMMG) by alcohol and aldehyde dehydrogenase and to 8-hydroxy-aciclovir (8-OH-ACV) by aldehyde oxidase. Approximately 88% of the total combined plasma exposure is attributable to aciclovir, 11% to CMMG and 1% to 8-OH-ACV. Neither valaciclovir nor aciclovir is metabolized by cytochrome P450 enzymes.
Elimination: Valaciclovir is eliminated in the urine principally as aciclovir (greater than 80% of the recovered dose) and the aciclovir metabolite CMMG (about 14% of the recovered dose). The metabolite 8-OH-ACV is detected only in small amounts in urine (< 2% of the recovered dose). Less than 1% of the administered dose of valaciclovir is recovered in the urine as unchanged drug. In patients with normal renal function the plasma elimination half-life of aciclovir after both single and multiple dosing with valaciclovir is approximately 3 h.
Special Populations: Renal impairment: The elimination of aciclovir is correlated to renal function, and exposure to aciclovir will increase with increased renal impairment. In patients with end-stage renal disease, the average elimination half-life of aciclovir after valaciclovir administration is approximately 14 hours, compared with about 3 hours for normal renal function (see Dosage & Administration).
Exposure to aciclovir and its metabolites CMMG and 8-OH-ACV in plasma and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) was evaluated at steady-state after multiple-dose valaciclovir administration in 6 subjects with normal renal function (mean creatinine clearance 111 mL/min, range 91-144 mL/min) receiving 2000 mg every 6 hours and 3 subjects with severe renal impairment (mean CLcr 26 mL/min, range 17-31 mL/min) receiving 1500 mg every 12 hours. In plasma as well as CSF, concentrations of aciclovir, CMMG and 8-OH-ACV were on average 2, 4 and 5-6 times higher, respectively, at severe renal impairment compared with normal renal function.
Hepatic impairment: Pharmacokinetic data indicate that hepatic impairment decreases the rate of conversion of valaciclovir to aciclovir but not the extent of conversion. Aciclovir half-life is not affected.
Pregnant women: A study of the pharmacokinetics of valaciclovir and aciclovir during late pregnancy indicates that pregnancy does not affect the pharmacokinetics of valaciclovir.
Transfer into breast milk: Following oral administration of a 500 mg dose of valaciclovir, peak aciclovir concentrations (Cmax) in breast milk ranged from 0.5 to 2.3 times the corresponding maternal aciclovir serum concentrations. The median aciclovir concentration in breast milk was 2.24 micrograms/ml (9.95 micromoles/L). With a maternal valaciclovir dosage of 500 mg twice daily, this level would expose a nursing infant to a daily oral aciclovir dosage of about 0.61 mg/kg/day. The elimination half-life of aciclovir from breast milk was similar to that for serum. Unchanged valaciclovir was not detected in maternal serum, breast milk, or infant urine.
Toxicology: Preclinical safety data: Non-clinical data reveal no special hazard for humans based on conventional studies of safety pharmacology, repeated dose toxicity, genotoxicity, and carcinogenic potential.
Valaciclovir did not affect fertility in male or female rats dosed by the oral route.
Valaciclovir was not teratogenic in rats or rabbits. Valaciclovir is almost completely metabolised to aciclovir. Subcutaneous administration of aciclovir in internationally accepted tests did not produce teratogenic effects in rats or rabbits. In additional studies in rats, foetal abnormalities and maternal toxicity were observed at subcutaneous doses that produced plasma aciclovir levels of 100 micrograms/mL (>10-fold higher than 2000 mg single dose valaciclovir in humans with normal renal function).