These highlights do not include all the information needed to use ribavirin safely and effectively. See full prescribing information for ribavirin. Initial U.S. Approval: 2002 | Ribavirin

04:44 EDT 27th August 2014 | BioPortfolio

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Ribavirin monotherapy is not effective for the treatment of chronic hepatitis C virus infection and should not be used alone for this indication.

The primary clinical toxicity of ribavirin is hemolytic anemia. The anemia associated with ribavirin therapy may result in worsening of cardiac disease and lead to fatal and nonfatal myocardial infarctions. Patients with a history of significant or unstable cardiac disease should not be treated with ribavirin [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS (5.2), ADVERSE REACTIONS (6.1), and DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION (2.3)].

Significant teratogenic and/or embryocidal effects have been demonstrated in all animal species exposed to ribavirin. In addition, ribavirin has a multiple dose half-life of 12 days, and it may persist in non-plasma compartments for as long as 6 months. Therefore, ribavirin, including ribavirin, is contraindicated in women who are pregnant and in the male partners of women who are pregnant. Extreme care must be taken to avoid pregnancy during therapy and for 6 months after completion of therapy in both female patients and in female partners of male patients who are taking ribavirin therapy. At least two reliable forms of effective contraception must be utilized during treatment and during the 6month post treatment follow-up period [see CONTRAINDICATIONS (4), WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS (5.1), and USE IN SPECIFIC POPULATIONS (8.1)].

Ribavirin in combination with peginterferon alfa-2a is indicated for the treatment of adults with chronic hepatitis C (CHC) virus infection who have compensated liver disease and have not been previously treated with interferon alpha.

The following points should be considered when initiating ribavirin combination therapy with peginterferon alfa-2a:

The recommended dose of ribavirin tablets is provided in Table 1. The recommended duration of treatment for patients previously untreated with ribavirin and interferon is 24 to 48 weeks.

The daily dose of ribavirin is 800 mg to 1200 mg administered orally in two divided doses. The dose should be individualized to the patient depending on baseline disease characteristics (e.g., genotype), response to therapy, and tolerability of the regimen (see Table 1).

Ribavirin should be taken with food.

Table 1Peginterferon alfa-2a and Ribavirin Dosing Recommendations
Hepatitis  C  Virus  ( HCV )  Genotype 
Peginterferon  Alfa - 2a  Dose *
Ribavirin  Dose
Genotypes 2 and 3 showed no increased response to treatment beyond 24 weeks (see Table 6). Data on genotypes 5 and 6 are insufficient for dosing recommendations.
*See Peginterferon alfa-2a Package Insert for further details on peginterferon alfa-2a dosing and administration.
Genotypes 1, 4 
180 mcg
< 75 kg = 1000 mg 
≥ 75 kg = 1200 mg
48 weeks
48 weeks
Genotypes 2, 3 
180 mcg
800 mg
24 weeks

The recommended dose for treatment of chronic hepatitis C in patients coinfected with HIV is peginterferon alfa-2a 180 mcg subcutaneous once weekly and ribavirin 800 mg by mouth daily for a total duration of 48 weeks, regardless of HCV genotype.

Ribavirin should be taken with food.

If severe adverse reactions or laboratory abnormalities develop during combination ribavirin/peginterferon alfa-2a therapy, the dose should be modified or discontinued, if appropriate, until the adverse reactions abate or decrease in severity. If intolerance persists after dose adjustment, ribavirin/peginterferon alfa-2a therapy should be discontinued. Table 2 provides guidelines for dose modifications and discontinuation based on the patient’s hemoglobin concentration and cardiac status.

Ribavirin should be administered with caution to patients with pre-existing cardiac disease. Patients should be assessed before commencement of therapy and should be appropriately monitored during therapy. If there is any deterioration of cardiovascular status, therapy should be stopped [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS (5.2)].

Once ribavirin has been withheld due to either a laboratory abnormality or clinical manifestation, an attempt may be made to restart ribavirin at 600 mg daily and further increase the dose to 800 mg daily. However, it is not recommended that ribavirin be increased to the original assigned dose (1000 mg to 1200 mg).

See peginterferon alfa-2a full prescribing information for recommendations on peginterferon alfa-2a dose modification.

Table 2Ribavirin Dosage Modification Guidelines
Laboratory  Values 
Reduce  Only  Ribavirin  Dose  to  600  mg / day *  if :
Discontinue  Ribavirin  if :
* One 200 mg tablet in the morning and two 200 mg tablets in the evening.
Hemoglobin in patients with no cardiac disease 
< 10 g/dL
< 8.5 g/dL
Hemoglobin in patients with history of stable cardiac disease 
≥ 2 g/dL decrease in hemoglobin during any 4 week period treatment
< 12 g/dL despite 4 weeks at reduced dose

Discontinuation of peginterferon alfa-2a/ ribavirin therapy should be considered if the patient has failed to demonstrate at least a 2 log reduction from baseline in HCV RNA by 12 weeks of therapy, or undetectable HCV RNA levels after 24 weeks of therapy.

Peginterferon alfa-2a/ ribavirin therapy should be discontinued in patients who develop hepatic decompensation during treatment [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS (5.3)].

Ribavirin should not be used in patients with creatinine clearance < 50 mL/min [see USE IN SPECIFIC POPULATIONS (8.7)].

Ribavirin tablets for oral administration are available as:

200 mg - light pink to pink, round, biconvex, beveled, film-coated tablets;

400 mg - light pink to pink, capsule shaped, biconvex, film-coated tablets;

500 mg - light pink to pink, modified capsule shaped, biconvex, film-coated tablets;

600 mg - light pink to pink, modified capsule shaped, biconvex, film-coated tablets

Ribavirin is contraindicated in:

Ribavirin and peginterferon alfa-2a combination therapy is contraindicated in patients with:

Significant adverse reactions associated with ribavirin/peginterferon alfa-2a combination therapy include severe depression and suicidal ideation, hemolytic anemia, suppression of bone marrow function, autoimmune and infectious disorders, ophthalmologic disorders, cerebrovascular disorders, pulmonary dysfunction, colitis, pancreatitis, and diabetes.

The Peginterferon alfa-2a Package Insert should be reviewed in its entirety for additional safety information prior to initiation of combination treatment.

Ribavirin may cause birth defects and/or death of the exposed fetus. Ribavirin has demonstrated significant teratogenic and/or embryocidal effects in all animal species in which adequate studies have been conducted. These effects occurred at doses as low as one twentieth of the recommended human dose of ribavirin.

Ribavirin therapy should not be started unless a report of a negative pregnancy test has been obtained immediately prior to planned initiation of therapy. Extreme care must be taken to avoid pregnancy in female patients and in female partners of male patients. Patients should be instructed to use at least two forms of effective contraception during treatment and for 6 months after treatment has been stopped. Pregnancy testing should occur monthly during ribavirin therapy and for 6 months after therapy has stopped [see BOXED WARNING, CONTRAINDICATIONS (4), USE IN SPECIFIC POPULATIONS (8.1), and PATIENT COUNSELING INFORMATION (17)].

The primary toxicity of ribavirin is hemolytic anemia, which was observed in approximately 13% of all ribavirin/peginterferon alfa-2a- treated subjects in clinical trials. Anemia associated with ribavirin occurs within 1 to 2 weeks of initiation of therapy. Because the initial drop in hemoglobin may be significant, it is advised that hemoglobin or hematocrit be obtained pretreatment and at week 2 and week 4 of therapy or more frequently if clinically indicated. Patients should then be followed as clinically appropriate. Caution should be exercised in initiating treatment in any patient with baseline risk of severe anemia (e.g., spherocytosis, history of gastrointestinal bleeding) [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION (2.3)].

Fatal and nonfatal myocardial infarctions have been reported in patients with anemia caused by ribavirin. Patients should be assessed for underlying cardiac disease before initiation of ribavirin therapy. Patients with pre-existing cardiac disease should have electrocardiograms administered before treatment, and should be appropriately monitored during therapy. If there is any deterioration of cardiovascular status, therapy should be suspended or discontinued [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION (2.3)]. Because cardiac disease may be worsened by drug-induced anemia, patients with a history of significant or unstable cardiac disease should not use ribavirin [see BOXED WARNING, and DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION (2.3)].

Chronic hepatitis C (CHC) patients with cirrhosis may be at risk of hepatic decompensation and death when treated with alpha interferons, including peginterferon alfa-2a. Cirrhotic CHC patients coinfected with HIV receiving highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) and interferon alfa-2a with or without ribavirin appear to be at increased risk for the development of hepatic decompensation compared to patients not receiving HAART. In Study NR15961 [see CLINICAL STUDIES (14.3)], among 129 CHC/HIV cirrhotic patients receiving HAART, 14 (11%) of these patients across all treatment arms developed hepatic decompensation resulting in 6 deaths. All 14 patients were on NRTIs, including stavudine, didanosine, abacavir, zidovudine, and lamivudine. These small numbers of patients do not permit discrimination between specific NRTIs or the associated risk. During treatment, patients’ clinical status and hepatic function should be closely monitored for signs and symptoms of hepatic decompensation. Treatment with peginterferon alfa-2a/ ribavirin should be discontinued immediately in patients with hepatic decompensation [see CONTRAINDICATIONS (4)]

Severe acute hypersensitivity reactions (e.g., urticaria, angioedema, bronchoconstriction, and anaphylaxis) have been observed during alpha interferon and ribavirin therapy. If such a reaction occurs, therapy with peginterferon alfa-2a and ribavirin should be discontinued immediately and appropriate medical therapy instituted. Serious skin reactions including vesiculobullous eruptions, reactions in the spectrum of Stevens-Johnson Syndrome (erythema multiforme major) with varying degrees of skin and mucosal involvement and exfoliative dermatitis (erythroderma) have been reported in patients receiving peginterferon alfa-2a with and without ribavirin. Patients developing signs or symptoms of severe skin reactions must discontinue therapy [see ADVERSE REACTIONS (6.2)].

Ribavirin should not be used in patients with creatinine clearance < 50 mL/min [see USE IN SPECIFIC POPULATIONS (8.7)].

Dyspnea, pulmonary infiltrates, pneumonitis, pulmonary hypertension, and pneumonia have been reported during therapy with ribavirin and interferon. Occasional cases of fatal pneumonia have occurred. In addition, sarcoidosis or the exacerbation of sarcoidosis has been reported. If there is evidence of pulmonary infiltrates or pulmonary function impairment, patients should be closely monitored and, if appropriate, combination ribavirin/peginterferon alfa-2a treatment should be discontinued.

Pancytopenia (marked decreases in RBCs, neutrophils and platelets) and bone marrow suppression have been reported in the literature to occur within 3 to 7 weeks after the concomitant administration of pegylated interferon/ribavirin and azathioprine. In this limited number of patients (n=8), myelotoxicity was reversible within 4 to 6 weeks upon withdrawal of both HCV antiviral therapy and concomitant azathioprine and did not recur upon reintroduction of either treatment alone. Peginterferon alfa-2a, ribavirin, and azathioprine should be discontinued for pancytopenia, and pegylated interferon/ribavirin should not be re-introduced with concomitant azathioprine [see DRUG INTERACTIONS (7.3)].

Ribavirin and peginterferon alfa-2a therapy should be suspended in patients with signs and symptoms of pancreatitis, and discontinued in patients with confirmed pancreatitis.

Before beginning peginterferon alfa-2a/ ribavirin combination therapy, standard hematological and biochemical laboratory tests are recommended for all patients. Pregnancy screening for women of childbearing potential must be performed. Patients who have pre-existing cardiac abnormalities should have electrocardiograms administered before treatment with peginterferon alfa-2a/ ribavirin.

After initiation of therapy, hematological tests should be performed at 2 weeks and 4 weeks and biochemical tests should be performed at 4 weeks. Additional testing should be performed periodically during therapy. In the clinical studies, the CBC (including hemoglobin level and white blood cell and platelet counts) and chemistries (including liver function tests and uric acid) were measured at 1, 2, 4, 6, and 8 weeks, and then every 4 to 6 weeks or more frequently if abnormalities were found. Thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) was measured every 12 weeks. Monthly pregnancy testing should be performed during combination therapy and for 6 months after discontinuing therapy.

The entrance criteria used for the clinical studies of ribavirin and peginterferon alfa-2a may be considered as a guideline to acceptable baseline values for initiation of treatment:

Peginterferon alfa-2a in combination with ribavirin causes a broad variety of serious adverse reactions [see BOXED WARNING and WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS (5)]. The most common serious or life-threatening adverse reactions induced or aggravated by ribavirin/peginterferon alfa-2a include depression, suicide, relapse of drug abuse/overdose, and bacterial infections each occurring at a frequency of < 1%. Hepatic decompensation occurred in 2% (10/574 CHC/HIV patients [see WARNINGS AND PRECAUTIONS (5.3)].

Because clinical trials are conducted under widely varying conditions, adverse reaction rates observed in the clinical trials of a drug cannot be directly compared to rates in the clinical trials of another drug and may not reflect the rates observed in clinical practice.

In the pivotal registration trials NV15801 and NV15942, 886 patients received ribavirin for 48 weeks at doses of 1000/1200 mg based on body weight. In these trials, one or more serious adverse reactions occurred in 10% of CHC monoinfected subjects and in 19% of CHC/HIV subjects receiving peginterferon alfa-2a alone or in combination with ribavirin. The most common serious adverse event (3% in CHC and 5% in CHC/HIV) was bacterial infection (e.g., sepsis, osteomyelitis, endocarditis, pyelonephritis, pneumonia).

Other serious adverse reactions occurred at a frequency of < 1% and included: suicide, suicidal ideation, psychosis, aggression, anxiety, drug abuse and drug overdose, angina, hepatic dysfunction, fatty liver, cholangitis, arrhythmia, diabetes mellitus, autoimmune phenomena (e.g., hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, sarcoidosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis), peripheral neuropathy, aplastic anemia, peptic ulcer, gastrointestinal bleeding, pancreatitis, colitis, corneal ulcer, pulmonary embolism, coma, myositis, cerebral hemorrhage, thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, psychotic disorder, and hallucination.

The percentage of patients in clinical trials who experienced one or more adverse events was 98%. The most commonly reported adverse reactions were psychiatric reactions, including depression, insomnia, irritability, anxiety, and flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, pyrexia, myalgia, headache and rigors. Other common reactions were anorexia, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, arthralgias, injection site reactions, alopecia, and pruritus. Table 3 shows rates of adverse events occurring in ≥ 5% subjects receiving pegylated interferon and ribavirin combination therapy in the CHC Clinical Trial, NV15801.

Ten percent of CHC monoinfected patients receiving 48 weeks of therapy with peginterferon alfa-2a in combination with ribavirin discontinued therapy; 16% of CHC/HIV coinfected patients discontinued therapy. The most common reasons for discontinuation of therapy were psychiatric, flu-like syndrome (e.g., lethargy, fatigue, headache), dermatologic and gastrointestinal disorders and laboratory abnormalities (thrombocytopenia, neutropenia, and anemia).

Overall 39% of patients with CHC or CHC/HIV required modification of peginterferon alfa-2a and/or ribavirin therapy. The most common reason for dose modification of peginterferon alfa-2a in CHC and CHC/HIV patients was for laboratory abnormalities; neutropenia (20% and 27%, respectively) and thrombocytopenia (4% and 6%, respectively). The most common reason for dose modification of ribavirin in CHC and CHC/HIV patients was anemia (22% and 16%, respectively).

Peginterferon alfa-2a dose was reduced in 12% of patients receiving 1000 mg to 1200 mg ribavirin for 48 weeks and in 7% of patients receiving 800 mg ribavirin for 24 weeks. Ribavirin dose was reduced in 21% of patients receiving 1000 mg to 1200 mg ribavirin for 48 weeks and in 12% of patients receiving 800 mg ribavirin for 24 weeks.

Chronic hepatitis C monoinfected patients treated for 24 weeks with peginterferon alfa-2a and 800 mg ribavirin were observed to have lower incidence of serious adverse events (3% vs. 10%), hemoglobin < 10g/dL (3% vs. 15%), dose modification of peginterferon alfa-2a (30% vs. 36%) and ribavirin (19% vs. 38%), and of withdrawal from treatment (5% vs. 15%) compared to patients treated for 48 weeks with peginterferon alfa-2a and 1000 mg or 1200 mg ribavirin. On the other hand, the overall incidence of adverse events appeared to be similar in the two treatment groups.

Common Adverse Reactions in CHC with HIV Coinfection

The adverse event profile of coinfected patients treated with peginterferon alfa-2a/ribavirin in Study NR15961 was generally similar to that shown for monoinfected patients in Study NV15801 (Table 3). Events occurring more frequently in coinfected patients were neutropenia (40%), anemia (14%), thrombocytopenia (8%), weight decrease (16%), and mood alteration (9%).

Laboratory Test Abnormalities

Anemia due to hemolysis is the most significant toxicity of ribavirin therapy. Anemia (hemoglobin < 10 g/dL) was observed in 13% of all ribavirin and peginterferon alfa-2a combination-treated patients in clinical trials. The maximum drop in hemoglobin occurred during the first 8 weeks of initiation of ribavirin therapy [see DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION (2.3)].

Table 3Adverse Reactions Occurring in ≥ 5% of Patients in Chronic Hepatitis C Clinical Trials (Study NV15801)

CHC  Combination  Therapy  Study  NV15801

* Severe hematologic abnormalities (lymphocyte < 0.5 x 109/L; hemoglobin < 10 g/dL;
neutrophil < 0.75 x 109/L; platelet < 50 x 109/L).
Body  System
Peginterferon  Alfa - 2a  180  mcg  +  1000  mg  or  1200  mg  Ribavirin  Tablets
48  weeks
Interferon  alfa - 2b  +  1000  mg  or  1200  mg  Ribavirin  Capsules
48  weeks

N = 451
N = 443

Application  Site  Disorders

Injection site reaction 
Endocrine  Disorders

Flu - like  Symptoms  and  Signs 


Abdominal pain
Dry mouth
Hematologic * 

< 1
Metabolic  and  Nutritional 

Weight decrease 
Musculoskeletal ,  Connective  Tissue  and  Bone 

Back pain 

Dizziness (excluding vertigo) 
Memory impairment 

Concentration impairment 
Mood alteration 
Resistance  Mechanism  Disorders 

Respiratory ,  Thoracic  and  Mediastinal 

Dyspnea exertional 
Skin  and  Subcutaneous  Tissue 

Dry skin 
Sweating increased 
Visual  Disorders 

Vision blurred 
Table 4Selected Laboratory Abnormalities During Treatment With Ribavirin in Combination With Either Peginterferon Alfa-2a or Interferon alfa-2b
Laboratory  Parameter 
Peginterferon  Alfa - 2a  +  Ribavirin  1000 / 1200  mg 
48  weeks

Zydus Pharmaceuticals (USA) Inc.

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