For systemic use, the anti-cytomegalovirus (CMV) agent foscarnet must be given intravenously because oral administration results in unmeasurable or barely measurable plasma levels. At low pH, foscarnet decomposes via an acid-catalyzed decarboxylation; therefore, poor oral bioavailability might be due to decomposition of foscarnet in gastric acid. We evaluated whether increasing gastric pH with ranitidine would enhance the absorption of oral foscarnet in six asymptomatic HIV-infected individuals. Each volunteer received two oral 4000-mg (60 mg/kg) doses of foscarnet, preceded intravenously by a 20-min infusion of either ranitidine 50 mg in D5W or D5W alone in a randomized, double-blind, cross-over study. Intragastric pH monitoring revealed that subjects had evidence of gastric acid production (pH<2.0) prior to administration of ranitidine and increased gastric pH (pH>6.0) following ranitidine administration. Most foscarnet plasma levels were below the assay limit of detection (33 μM) with only 4/30 levels detectable after D5W and 8/30 after ranitidine. Urinary recovery of foscarnet increased after ranitidine pretreatment. A mean recovery of 9.9% of the drug was realized in the urine in 24 h following ranitidine pretreatment compared to 6.2% of the dose after D5W pretreatment (P<0.03). We estimate that 9.9% recovery in the urine in 24 h is equivalent to absorption of 17.1% of the oral dose. In spite of the enhanced bioavailability associated with ranitidine pretreatment, the degree of absorption is still insufficient to achieve effective plasma concentrations for the treatment of CMV or acyclovir-resistant herpes viruses. We conclude that gastric acidity is a determinant of foscarnet absorption, albeit not a major one. Oral foscarnet is unlikely to be clinically useful even if administered in the setting of increased gastric pH. Copyright (C) 1998 Elsevier Science B.V.
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