Zalcitabine: Clinical Pharmacokinetics and Efficacy

Damayanthi Devineni, James M. Gallo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Zalcitabine (ddC) was the first drug to be approved under the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) accelerated drug approval process. Zalcitabine is a potent nucleoside analogue inhibitor of reverse transcriptase used in the treatment of HIV infection. It is approximately 10-fold more potent than zidovudine (AZT) on a molar basis in vitro. Zalcitabine is well absorbed orally and reaches maximal plasma concentrations within 1 to 2 hours. In humans it is mainly eliminated by renal excretion of unchanged drug, and patients with renal failure may exhibit a prolonged half-life. A variety of clinical trials have evaluated the efficacy of zalcitabine based on improved survival and decreased frequency of opportunistic infections and on a surrogate marker of HIV disease, the CD4 count, or the concentration of an antigen associated with HIV, p24. Alternating zalcitabine therapy with zidovudine therapy was associated with increased CD4+ lymphocyte counts and reduced plasma p24 antigen levels. Zalcitabine can cause peripheral neuropathy (in 17 to 31% of patients), which is dose-related and is completely reversible when the drug is discontinued. Zalcitabine will continue to play a role in chemotherapeutic approaches to HIV.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-360
Number of pages10
JournalClinical Pharmacokinetics
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1995
Externally publishedYes


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