Pharmacotherapeutic group: nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors. ATC Code: J05AF06.
Pharmacology: Pharmacodynamics: Mechanism of action: Abacavir is a NRTI. It is a potent selective inhibitor of HIV-1 and HIV-2. Abacavir is metabolised intracellularly to the active moiety, carbovir 5'-triphosphate (TP). In vitro studies have demonstrated that its mechanism of action in relation to HIV is inhibition of the HIV reverse transcriptase enzyme, an event which results in chain termination and interruption of the viral replication cycle. The antiviral activity of abacavir in cell culture was not antagonized when combined with the nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) didanosine, emtricitabine, lamivudine, stavudine, tenofovir or zidovudine, the non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) nevirapine, or the protease inhibitor (PI) amprenavir.
Resistance: In vitro resistance: Abacavir-resistant isolates of HIV-1 have been selected in vitro and are associated with specific genotypic changes in the reverse transcriptase (RT) codon region (codons M184V, K65R, L74V and Y115F). Viral resistance to abacavir develops relatively slowly in vitro, requiring multiple mutations for a clinically relevant increase in EC50 over wild-type virus.
In vivo resistance (Therapy naïve patients): Isolates from most patients experiencing virological failure with a regimen containing abacavir in pivotal clinical trials showed either no NRTI-related changes from baseline (45%) or only M184V or M184I selection (45%). The overall selection frequency for M184V or M184I was high (54%), and less common was the selection of L74V (5%), K65R (1%) and Y115F (1%). The inclusion of zidovudine in the regimen has been found to reduce the frequency of L74V and K65R selection in the presence of abacavir (with zidovudine: 0/40, without zidovudine: 15/192, 8%). (See Table 1.)
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TAMs might be selected when thymidine analogs are associated with abacavir. In a meta-analysis of six clinical trials, TAMs were not selected by regimens containing abacavir without zidovudine (0/127), but were selected by regimens containing abacavir and the thymidine analogue zidovudine (22/86, 26%).
In vivo resistance (Therapy experienced patients): Clinically significant reduction of susceptibility to abacavir has been demonstrated in clinical isolates of patients with uncontrolled viral replication, who have been pre-treated with and are resistant to other nucleoside inhibitors. In a meta-analysis of five clinical trials where abacavir was added to intensify therapy, of 166 subjects, 123 (74%) had M184V/I, 50 (30%) had T215Y/F, 45 (27%) had M41L, 30 (18%) had K70R and 25 (15%) had D67N. K65R was absent and L74V and Y115F were uncommon (≤3%). Logistic regression modelling of the predictive value for genotype (adjusted for baseline plasma HIV-1 RNA [vRNA], CD4+ cell count, number and duration of prior antiretroviral therapies), showed that the presence of 3 or more NRTI resistance-associated mutations was associated with reduced response at Week 4 (p=0.015) or 4 or more mutations at median Week 24 (p≤0.012). In addition, the 69 insertion complex or the Q151M mutation, usually found in combination with A62V, V75I, F77L and F116Y, cause a high level of resistance to abacavir. (See Table 2.)
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Phenotypic resistance and cross-resistance: Phenotypic resistance to abacavir requires M184V with at least one other abacavir-selected mutation, or M184V with multiple TAMs. Phenotypic cross-resistance to other NRTIs with M184V or M184I mutation alone is limited. Zidovudine, didanosine, stavudine and tenofovir maintain their antiretroviral activities against such HIV-1 variants. The presence of M184V with K65R does give rise to cross-resistance between abacavir, tenofovir, didanosine and lamivudine, and M184V with L74V gives rise to cross-resistance between abacavir, didanosine and lamivudine. The presence of M184V with Y115F gives rise to cross-resistance between abacavir and lamivudine. Appropriate use of abacavir can be guided using currently recommended resistance algorithms.
Cross-resistance between abacavir and antiretrovirals from other classes (e.g. PIs or NNRTIs) is unlikely.
Clinical efficacy and safety: The demonstration of the benefit of Ziagen is mainly based on results of studies performed in adult treatment-naïve patients using a regimen of Ziagen 300 mg twice daily in combination with zidovudine and lamivudine.
Twice daily (300 mg) administration: Therapy naïve adults: In adults treated with abacavir in combination with lamivudine and zidovudine the proportion of patients with undetectable viral load (<400 copies/ml) was approximately 70% (intention to treat analysis at 48 weeks) with corresponding rise in CD4 cells.
One randomised, double blind, placebo controlled clinical study in adults has compared the combination of abacavir, lamivudine and zidovudine to the combination of indinavir, lamivudine and zidovudine. Due to the high proportion of premature discontinuation (42% of patients discontinued randomised treatment by week 48), no definitive conclusion can be drawn regarding the equivalence between the treatment regimens at week 48. Although a similar antiviral effect was observed between the abacavir and indinavir containing regimens in terms of proportion of patients with undetectable viral load (≤400 copies/ml; intention to treat analysis (ITT), 47% versus 49%; as treated analysis (AT), 86% versus 94% for abacavir and indinavir combinations respectively), results favoured the indinavir combination, particularly in the subset of patients with high viral load (>100,000 copies/ml at baseline; ITT, 46% versus 55%; AT, 84% versus 93% for abacavir and indinavir respectively).
In a multicentre, double-blind, controlled study (CNA30024), 654 HIV-infected, antiretroviral therapy-naïve patients were randomised to receive either abacavir 300 mg twice daily or zidovudine 300 mg twice daily, both in combination with lamivudine 150 mg twice daily and efavirenz 600 mg once daily. The duration of double-blind treatment was at least 48 weeks. In the intent-to-treat (ITT) population, 70% of patients in the abacavir group, compared to 69% of patients in the zidovudine group, achieved a virologic response of plasma HIV-1 RNA ≤50 copies/ml by Week 48 (point estimate for treatment difference: 0.8, 95% CI -6.3, 7.9). In the as treated (AT) analysis the difference between both treatment arms was more noticeable (88% of patients in the abacavir group, compared to 95% of patients in the zidovudine group (point estimate for treatment difference: -6.8, 95% CI -11.8; -1.7). However, both analyses were compatible with a conclusion of non-inferiority between both treatment arms.
ACTG5095 was a randomised (1:1:1), double-blind, placebo-controlled trial performed in 1147 antiretroviral naïve HIV-1 infected adults, comparing 3 regimens: zidovudine (ZDV), lamivudine (3TC), abacavir (ABC), efavirenz (EFV) vs ZDV/3TC/EFV vs ZDV/3TC/ABC. After a median follow-up of 32 weeks, the tritherapy with the three nucleosides ZDV/3TC/ABC was shown to be virologically inferior to the two other arms regardless of baseline viral load (< or > 100 000 copies/ml) with 26% of subjects on the ZDV/3TC/ABC arm, 16% on the ZDV/3TC/EFV arm and 13% on the 4 drug arm categorised as having virological failure (HIV RNA >200 copies/ml). At week 48 the proportion of subjects with HIV RNA <50 copies/ml were 63%, 80% and 86% for the ZDV/3TC/ABC, ZDV/3TC/EFV and ZDV/3TC/ABC/EFV arms, respectively. The study Data Safety Monitoring Board stopped the ZDV/3TC/ABC arm at this time based on the higher proportion of patients with virologic failure. The remaining arms were continued in a blinded fashion. After a median follow-up of 144 weeks, 25% of subjects on the ZDV/3TC/ABC/EFV arm and 26% on the ZDV/3TC/EFV arm were categorised as having virological failure. There was no significant difference in the time to first virologic failure (p=0.73, log-rank test) between the 2 arms. In this study, addition of ABC to ZDV/3TC/EFV did not significantly improve efficacy. (See Table 3.)
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Therapy experienced adults: In adults moderately exposed to antiretroviral therapy the addition of abacavir to combination antiretroviral therapy provided modest benefits in reducing viral load (median change 0.44 log10 copies/ml at 16 weeks).
In heavily NRTI pretreated patients the efficacy of abacavir is very low. The degree of benefit as part of a new combination regimen will depend on the nature and duration of prior therapy which may have selected for HIV-1 variants with cross-resistance to abacavir.
Once daily (600 mg) administration: Therapy naïve adults: The once daily regimen of abacavir is supported by a 48 weeks multi-centre, double-blind, controlled study (CNA30021) of 770 HIV-infected, therapy-naïve adults. These were primarily asymptomatic HIV infected patients - Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stage A. They were randomised to receive either abacavir 600 mg once daily or 300 mg twice daily, in combination with efavirenz and lamivudine given once daily. Similar clinical success (point estimate for treatment difference -1.7, 95% CI -8.4, 4.9) was observed for both regimens. From these results, it can be concluded with 95% confidence that the true difference is no greater than 8.4% in favour of the twice daily regimen. This potential difference is sufficiently small to draw an overall conclusion of non-inferiority of abacavir once daily over abacavir twice daily.
There was a low, similar overall incidence of virologic failure (viral load >50 copies/ml) in both the once and twice daily treatment groups (10% and 8% respectively). In the small sample size for genotypic analysis, there was a trend toward a higher rate of NRTI-associated mutations in the once daily versus the twice daily abacavir regimens. No firm conclusion could be drawn due to the limited data derived from this study. Long term data with abacavir used as a once daily regimen (beyond 48 weeks) are currently limited.
Therapy experienced adults: In study CAL30001, 182 treatment-experienced patients with virologic failure were randomised and received treatment with either the fixed-dose combination of abacavir/lamivudine (FDC) once daily or abacavir 300 mg twice daily plus lamivudine 300 mg once daily, both in combination with tenofovir and a PI or an NNRTI for 48 weeks. Results indicate that the FDC group was non-inferior to the abacavir twice daily group, based on similar reductions in HIV-1 RNA as measured by average area under the curve minus baseline (AAUCMB, -1.65 log10 copies/ml versus -1.83 log10 copies/ml respectively, 95% CI -0.13, 0.38). Proportions with HIV-1 RNA < 50 copies/ml (50% versus 47%) and < 400 copies/ml (54% versus 57%) were also similar in each group (ITT population). However, as there were only moderately experienced patients included in this study with an imbalance in baseline viral load between the arms, these results should be interpreted with caution.
In study ESS30008, 260 patients with virologic suppression on a first line therapy regimen containing abacavir 300 mg plus lamivudine 150 mg, both given twice daily and a PI or NNRTI, were randomised to continue this regimen or switch to abacavir/lamivudine FDC plus a PI or NNRTI for 48 weeks. Results indicate that the FDC group was associated with a similar virologic outcome (non-inferior) compared to the abacavir plus lamivudine group, based on proportions of subjects with HIV-1 RNA < 50 copies/ml (90% and 85% respectively, 95% CI -2.7, 13.5).
Additional information: The safety and efficacy of Ziagen in a number of different multidrug combination regimens is still not completely assessed (particularly in combination with NNRTIs).
Abacavir penetrates the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) (see Pharmacokinetics: Distribution as follows), and has been shown to reduce HIV-1 RNA levels in the CSF. However, no effects on neuropsychological performance were seen when it was administered to patients with AIDS dementia complex.
Paediatric population: A randomised comparison of a regimen including once daily vs twice daily dosing of abacavir and lamivudine was undertaken within a randomised, multicentre, controlled study of HIV-infected, paediatric patients. 1206 paediatric patients aged 3 months to 17 years enrolled in the ARROW Trial (COL105677) and were dosed according to the weight - band dosing recommendations in the World Health Organisation treatment guidelines (Antiretroviral therapy of HIV infection in infants and children, 2006). After 36 weeks on a regimen including twice daily abacavir and lamivudine, 669 eligible subjects were randomised to either continue twice daily dosing or switch to once daily abacavir and lamivudine for at least 96 weeks. Of note, from this study clinical data were not available for children under one year old. The results are summarised in the following table: See Table 4.
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The abacavir + lamivudine once daily dosing group was demonstrated to be non-inferior to the twice daily group according to the pre-specified non-inferiority margin of -12%, for the primary endpoint of <80 c/ml at Week 48 as well as at Week 96 (secondary endpoint) and all other thresholds tested (<200c/ml, <400c/ml, <1000c/ml), which all fell well within this non-inferiority margin. Subgroup analyses testing for heterogeneity of once vs twice daily demonstrated no significant effect of sex, age, or viral load at randomisation. Conclusions supported non-inferiority regardless of analysis method.
In a separate study comparing the unblinded NRTI combinations (with or without blinded nelfinavir) in children, a greater proportion treated with abacavir and lamivudine (71%) or abacavir and zidovudine (60%) had HIV-1 RNA ≤400 copies/ml at 48 weeks, compared with those treated with lamivudine and zidovudine (47%)[ p=0.09, intention to treat analysis]. Similarly, greater proportions of children treated with the abacavir containing combinations had HIV-1 RNA ≤50 copies/ml at 48 weeks (53%, 42% and 28% respectively, p=0.07).
In a pharmacokinetic study (PENTA 15), four virologically controlled subjects less than 12 months of age switched from abacavir plus lamivudine oral solution twice daily to a once daily regimen. Three subjects had undetectable viral load and one had plasmatic HIV-RNA of 900 copies/ml at Week 48. No safety concerns were observed in these subjects.
Pharmacokinetics: Absorption: Abacavir is rapidly and well absorbed following oral administration. The absolute bioavailability of oral abacavir in adults is about 83%. Following oral administration, the mean time (tmax) to maximal serum concentrations of abacavir is about 1.5 hours for the tablet formulation and about 1.0 hour for the solution formulation.
There are no differences observed between the AUC for the tablet or solution. At therapeutic dosages a dosage of 300 mg twice daily, the mean (CV) steady state Cmax and Cmin of abacavir are approximately 3.00 μg/ml (30%) and 0.01 μg/ml (99%), respectively. The mean (CV) AUC over a dosing interval of 12 hours was 6.02 μg·h/ml (29%), equivalent to a daily AUC of approximately 12.0 μg·h/ml. The Cmax value for the oral solution is slightly higher than the tablet. After a 600 mg abacavir tablet dose, the mean (CV) abacavir Cmax was approximately 4.26 μg/ml (28%) and the mean (CV) AUC∞ was 11.95 μg·h/ml (21%).
Food delayed absorption and decreased Cmax but did not affect overall plasma concentrations (AUC). Therefore Ziagen can be taken with or without food.
Administration of crushed tablets with a small amount of semi-solid food or liquid would not be expected to have an impact on the pharmaceutical quality, and would therefore not be expected to alter the clinical effect. This conclusion is based on the physiochemical and pharmacokinetic data, assuming that the patient crushes and transfers 100% of the tablet and ingests immediately.
Distribution: Following intravenous administration, the apparent volume of distribution was about 0.8 l/kg, indicating that abacavir penetrates freely into body tissues.
Studies in HIV infected patients have shown good penetration of abacavir into the CSF, with a CSF to plasma AUC ratio of between 30 to 44%. The observed values of the peak concentrations are 9 fold greater than the IC50 of abacavir of 0.08 μg/ml or 0.26 μM when abacavir is given at 600 mg twice daily.
Plasma protein binding studies in vitro indicate that abacavir binds only low to moderately (~49%) to human plasma proteins at therapeutic concentrations. This indicates a low likelihood for interactions with other medicinal products through plasma protein binding displacement.
Biotransformation: Abacavir is primarily metabolised by the liver with approximately 2% of the administered dose being renally excreted, as unchanged compound. The primary pathways of metabolism in man are by alcohol dehydrogenase and by glucuronidation to produce the 5'-carboxylic acid and 5'-glucuronide which account for about 66% of the administered dose. The metabolites are excreted in the urine.
Elimination: The mean half-life of abacavir is about 1.5 hours. Following multiple oral doses of abacavir 300 mg twice a day there is no significant accumulation of abacavir. Elimination of abacavir is via hepatic metabolism with subsequent excretion of metabolites primarily in the urine. The metabolites and unchanged abacavir account for about 83% of the administered abacavir dose in the urine. The remainder is eliminated in the faeces.
Intracellular pharmacokinetics: In a study of 20 HIV-infected patients receiving abacavir 300 mg twice daily, with only one 300 mg dose taken prior to the 24 hour sampling period, the geometric mean terminal carbovir-TP intracellular half-life at steady-state was 20.6 hours, compared to the geometric mean abacavir plasma half-life in this study of 2.6 hours. In a crossover study in 27 HIV-infected patients, intracellular carbovir-TP exposures were higher for the abacavir 600 mg once daily regimen (AUC24,ss + 32 %, Cmax24,ss + 99 % and Ctrough + 18 %) compared to the 300 mg twice daily regimen. Overall, these data support the use of abacavir 600 mg once daily for the treatment of HIV infected patients. Additionally, the efficacy and safety of abacavir given once daily has been demonstrated in a pivotal clinical study (CNA30021 - see Pharmacodynamics: Clinical efficacy and safety: Once daily (600 mg) administration: Therapy naïve adults as previously mentioned).
Special patient populations: Hepatic impairment: Abacavir is metabolised primarily by the liver. The pharmacokinetics of abacavir have been studied in patients with mild hepatic impairment (Child-Pugh score 5-6) receiving a single 600 mg dose; the median (range) AUC values was 24.1 (10.4 to 54.8) μg·h/ml. The results showed that there was a mean (90%CI) increase of 1.89 fold [1.32; 2.70] in the abacavir AUC, and 1.58 [1.22; 2.04] fold in the elimination half-life. No definitive recommendation on dosage reduction is possible in patients with mild hepatic impairment due to the substantial variability of abacavir exposure.
Abacavir is not recommended in patients with moderate or severe hepatic impairment.
Renal impairment: Abacavir is primarily metabolised by the liver with approximately 2% of abacavir excreted unchanged in the urine. The pharmacokinetics of abacavir in patients with end-stage renal disease is similar to patients with normal renal function. Therefore no dosage reduction is required in patients with renal impairment. Based on limited experience Ziagen should be avoided in patients with end-stage renal disease.
Paediatric population: According to clinical trials performed in children abacavir is rapidly and well absorbed from oral solution and tablet formulations administered to children. Plasma abacavir exposure has been shown to be the same for both formulations when administered at the same dose. Children receiving abacavir oral solution according to the recommended dosage regimen achieve plasma abacavir exposure similar to adults. Children receiving abacavir oral tablets according to the recommended dosage regimen achieve higher plasma abacavir exposure than children receiving oral solution because higher mg/kg doses are administered with the tablet formulation.
There are insufficient safety data to recommend the use of Ziagen in infants less than three months old. The limited data available indicate that an oral solution dose of 2 mg/kg in neonates less than 30 days old provides similar or greater AUCs, compared to the 8 mg/kg oral solution dose administered to older children.
Pharmacokinetic data were derived from 3 pharmacokinetic studies (PENTA 13, PENTA 15 and ARROW PK substudy) enrolling children under 12 years of age. The data are displayed in the following table: See Table 5.
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In PENTA 15 study, the geometric mean plasma abacavir AUC(0-24) (95% CI) of the four subjects under 12 months of age who switch from a twice daily to a once daily regimen (see Pharmacodynamics: Clinical efficacy and safety: Twice daily (300 mg) administration and Once daily (600 mg) administration as previously mentioned) are 15.9 (8.86, 28.5) μg·h/ml in the once-daily dosing and 12.7 (6.52, 24.6) μg·h/ml in the twice-daily dosing.
Elderly: The pharmacokinetics of abacavir has not been studied in patients over 65 years of age.
Toxicology: Preclinical safety data: Abacavir was not mutagenic in bacterial tests but showed activity in vitro in the human lymphocyte chromosome aberration assay, the mouse lymphoma assay, and the in vivo micronucleus test. This is consistent with the known activity of other nucleoside analogues. These results indicate that abacavir has a weak potential to cause chromosomal damage both in vitro and in vivo at high test concentrations.
Carcinogenicity studies with orally administered abacavir in mice and rats showed an increase in the incidence of malignant and non-malignant tumours. Malignant tumours occurred in the preputial gland of males and the clitoral gland of females of both species, and in rats in the thyroid gland of males and the liver, urinary bladder, lymph nodes and the subcutis of females.
The majority of these tumours occurred at the highest abacavir dose of 330 mg/kg/day in mice and 600 mg/kg/day in rats. The exception was the preputial gland tumour which occurred at a dose of 110 mg/kg in mice. The systemic exposure at the no effect level in mice and rats was equivalent to 3 and 7 times the human systemic exposure during therapy. While the carcinogenic potential in humans is unknown, these data suggest that a carcinogenic risk to humans is outweighed by the potential clinical benefit.
In pre-clinical toxicology studies, abacavir treatment was shown to increase liver weights in rats and monkeys. The clinical relevance of this is unknown. There is no evidence from clinical studies that abacavir is hepatotoxic. Additionally, autoinduction of abacavir metabolism or induction of the metabolism of other medicinal products hepatically metabolised has not been observed in man.
Mild myocardial degeneration in the heart of mice and rats was observed following administration of abacavir for two years. The systemic exposures were equivalent to 7 to 24 times the expected systemic exposure in humans. The clinical relevance of this finding has not been determined.
In reproductive toxicity studies, embryo and foetal toxicity have been observed in rats but not in rabbits. These findings included decreased foetal body weight, foetal oedema, and an increase in skeletal variations/malformations, early intra-uterine deaths and still births. No conclusion can be drawn with regard to the teratogenic potential of abacavir because of this embryo-foetal toxicity.
A fertility study in the rat has shown that abacavir had no effect on male or female fertility.