Objective: Ganciclovir is commonly used in the treatment of cytomegalovirus (CMV) disease in patients who are immunocompromised and for the prevention of CMV disease in solid organ transplant recipients. Owing to limited bioavailability and saturable absorption, the use of oral ganciclovir in CMV retinitis is restricted to maintenance therapy only. As induction therapy must be given intravenously, an oral formulation which could be used for induction would offer significant benefits. A previous study of valganciclovir, a valyl ester prodrug of ganciclovir showed a 10-fold increase in plasma ganciclovir concentrations compared with the oral formulation. However, before studies can be conducted to confirm the utility of oral valganciclovir for the treatment and prevention of CMV disease, a dose must be selected for use in these studies. This study was designed to investigate the pharmacokinetics of ganciclovir and valganciclovir.
Design and participants: The study was an open-label, randomised, 4-way crossover, dose-ranging pharmacokinetic study, conducted in 39 patients who were HIV- and CMV-seropositive. The participants were randomised to one of 2 groups: fasted (n = 19) and fed (n = 20). In both groups, participants received 450, 875, 1750 and 2625 mg oral valganciclovir once daily for 3 days in a randomised order.
Results: In the 32 participants who completed the study, valganciclovir was rapidly absorbed and converted into ganciclovir (maximum ganciclovir concentrations occurred after 1.0 to 1.75 hours in the fasted group and 1.5 to 2.0 hours in the fed group). Systemic exposure to valganciclovir was low [with an area under the concentration-time curve to 24 hours (AUC24) of 1.3 to 2.5% that of ganciclovir]. The mean plasma concentrations of ganciclovir were dose-related. Peak concentrations of ganciclovir were achieved approximately 30 minutes after those for valganciclovir. In the fed state, the AUC24 of ganciclovir increased proportionally with dose. The mean AUC24 values for ganciclovir were slightly higher following food (24 to 56%) than in the fasted state. Based on linear regression of AUC24 values from the fed group, a dose of valganciclovir of 900 mg/day is expected to produce a daily exposure (AUC24) comparable with an intravenous dose of ganciclovir 5 mg/kg/day.
Conclusions: These results show that once daily oral valganciclovir can produce exposures of ganciclovir (AUC24) exceeding those attained using intravenous ganciclovir 10 mg/kg. This suggests that oral valganciclovir may be suitable in many circumstances currently requiring intravenous ganciclovir, allowing for more convenience in the management of patients with CMV retinitis by utilising a 2 or 4 tablet daily regimen to cover all phases of treatment.