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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. 1995 Dec;39(12):2759-64.

Absolute bioavailability and metabolic disposition of valaciclovir, the L-valyl ester of acyclovir, following oral administration to humans.

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Department of Clinical Pharmacology, Wellcome Foundation Ltd., Beckenham, Kent, United Kingdom.


Valaciclovir (Valtrex), the L-valyl ester of acyclovir, is undergoing clinical development for the treatment and suppression of herpesviral diseases. The absolute bioavailability of acyclovir from valaciclovir and the metabolic disposition of valaciclovir were investigated with healthy volunteers in two separate studies. In a randomized, crossover study, 12 fasting healthy volunteers each received 1,000 mg of oral valaciclovir and a 1-h intravenous infusion of 350 mg of acyclovir. The mean absolute bioavailability of acyclovir was 54.2%, a value three to five times that obtained previously with oral acyclovir. A similar estimate of 51.3% was made from urinary recovery of acyclovir. In the second study, four fasting volunteers received a single oral dose of 1,000 mg of [14C]valaciclovir. The majority of plasma radioactivity was accounted for by acyclovir, with very low plasma valaciclovir concentrations (mean maximum concentration of drug in plasma = 0.19 microM), which were undetectable after 3 h postdose. By 168 h, more than 90% of the administered radioactive dose was recovered, with approximately 45% in urine and 475 in feces. More than 99% of the radioactivity recovered in urine corresponded to acyclovir and its known metabolites, 9-(carboxymethoxymethyl)guanine and 8-hydroxy-9- [(2-hydroxyethoxy)methyl]guanine, with valaciclovir accounting for less than 0.5% of the dose. Acyclovir, but no valaciclovir, was detected in fecal samples. These studies show that after oral administration to humans, valaciclovir is rapidly and virtually completely converted to acyclovir to provide a high level of acyclovir bioavailability in comparison with that following oral administration of acyclovir. The plasma acyclovir exposure obtained following oral administration of valaciclovir is similar to that achieved with doses of intravenous acyclovir, which are effective in the treatment and suppression of the less susceptible herpesviral diseases.

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