Cidofovir is an antiviral nucleotide analogue with significant activity against cytomegalovirus (CMV) and other herpesviruses. The drug is indicated for the treatment of CMV retinitis, a sight-threatening condition, in patients with AIDS. Cidofovir has a long intracellular half-life which allows for a prolonged interval (2 weeks) between maintenance doses. In contrast, other intravenous treatment options for patients with CMV retinitis (i.e. ganciclovir and foscarnet) must be administered on a daily basis. The efficacy of intravenous cidofovir has been demonstrated in patients with AIDS and previously untreated CMV retinitis in multicentre randomised trials, and in a dose-finding study of cidofovir in patients with AIDS and previously treated relapsing CMV retinitis. Clinical trials have been relatively small (n < or = 100 patients) and no studies have been conducted directly comparing intravenous cidofovir with the more established intravenous agents, ganciclovir or foscarnet. Indirect comparisons of clinical trial data suggest that intravenous cidofovir may have similar efficacy to intravenous ganciclovir or foscarnet in delaying progression of CMV retinitis. However, such comparisons must be made with caution because of potential differences in patient populations, data analysis techniques and interobserver variability in the masked assessment of retinal photographs. Nevertheless, intravenous cidofovir offers a less intrusive administration regimen than intravenous ganciclovir or foscarnet because of its prolonged dosage interval. Since therapy is life-long, patients receiving daily intravenous ganciclovir or foscarnet (but not cidofovir) usually require an indwelling central venous catheter and are therefore at increased risk of serious infection. The relatively long dosage interval for cidofovir may also have favourable implications in terms of overall treatment costs and patient quality of life, although specific data are very limited. Potentially irreversible nephrotoxicity is the major treatment-limiting adverse event associated with intravenous cidofovir in patients with AIDS-related CMV retinitis. Anterior uveitis/iritis has been reported frequently with intravenous cidofovir in postmarketing reports and a small number of patients have developed hypotony. Other treatment options for CMV retinitis are also associated with serious adverse events, and selection of pharmacotherapy will depend on a number of factors including retinitis lesion characteristics, patient quality-of-life issues and efficacy and tolerability profiles of available therapies.
Conclusion: Although the extent of its use may be limited by its adverse event profile, cidofovir offers a useful addition to the limited number of drugs available for the treatment of CMV retinitis in patients with AIDS.