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J Clin Pharmacol. 2004 Mar;44(3):265-75.

Pharmacokinetics and safety of viramidine, a prodrug of ribavirin, in healthy volunteers.

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  • 1Valeant Pharmaceuticals International, 3300 Hyland Avenue, Costa Mesa, CA 92626, USA.


Ribavirin, part of the current first-line combination therapy for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C, has side effects-in particular, hemolytic anemia-that is frequently dose limiting. Based on animal studies, viramidine, a prodrug of ribavirin, is converted to ribavirin in the liver. Viramidine dosing yielded 50% higher ribavirin levels in the monkey liver but only half in plasma and red blood cells compared to ribavirin dosing. At the same dose, it also had a safer profile than ribavirin in a 28-day toxicity study in monkeys. The current study was carried out to evaluate the safety, tolerability, and pharmacokinetics of viramidine in healthy male volunteers (n = 8-18 on viramidine vs. 2 on placebo at each dose level) after oral dosing of viramidine at 200, 600, and 1200 mg. There were no serious adverse events, and most adverse events were mild. The percentages of treatment-emergent events judged to be possibly related to the study drug were 50% in the 1200-mg group, 26% in the 600-mg group, and none in the 200-mg group. Viramidine was orally absorbed and rapidly converted to ribavirin with a t(max) of 1.5 to 3.0 hours for both viramidine and ribavirin in plasma. There was dose proportionality in plasma AUC(0-168 h) and C(max) for viramidine and in plasma AUC(0-168 h) for ribavirin. Plasma AUC(0-168 h) for ribavirin was two to four times higher than plasma AUC(0-168 h) for viramidine, indicating that viramidine is extensively metabolized to ribavirin and is a prodrug of ribavirin in man. Amounts of viramidine and ribavirin excreted in the urine were small (2%-5% of dose), indicating that the main route of elimination for both viramidine and ribavirin is metabolism. Both viramidine and ribavirin were excreted into urine through the mechanism of glomerular filtration. In addition, an evaluation of the effect of a high-fat meal on the pharmacokinetics of viramidine and ribavirin after oral dosing of viramidine at 600 mg was conducted in healthy male volunteers (n = 33-34) in a crossover study design. A high-fat meal increased viramidine plasma AUC(0-168 h) by 44% and C(max) by 20%. It also increased ribavirin plasma AUC(0-168 h) by 19% and C(max) by 43%. The clinical relevance of these increases is unknown.

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