Ganciclovir

Brand names of ganciclovir

  • Cytovene
  • Vitrasert

Ganciclovir is an antiviral drug, which helps in eliminating viruses or preventing the viruses from replicating. In effect, people having normal immune system do not fall sick owing to the virus called cytomegalovirus (CMV). However, this virus has the potential to cause grave infections in people affected by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). In effect, CMV has the aptitude to infect different parts of the body, counting lungs, eyes and intestines. While ganciclovir is not effective in curing infections caused by CMV, it definitely helps to control the infections.

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The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the sale and use of ganciclovir in 1989. In fact, the FDA has approved the injection form of this medication for starting as well as continuing therapy - known as maintenance treatment of CMV infections in patients suffering from AIDS. On the other hand, the capsule form of the drug has been approved for maintenance treatment of CMV in patients infected with HIV as well as transplant patients who face the risk of being infected by HIV. The FDA approved the ganciclovir intravitreal implant in 1996 for treating CMV retinitis in AIDS patients.

Things you need to tell your physician before taking ganciclovir

As with any other medicament, before starting your treatment with ganciclovir, you ought to exercise a number of precautions. Prior to taking ganciclovir in any form, it is important to tell your doctor if you have any allergic reactions to ganciclovir, valganciclovir (Valcyte), acyclovir (Zovirax) or any other medications. If you are taking valganciclovir (Valcyte), you should not take ganciclovir. Prior to beginning treatment with ganciclovir, also tell your doctor about all the other prescription and non-prescription (over-the-counter) drugs, herbal products, vitamins, minerals and nutritional supplements you are taking currently.

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In addition, you should also inform your doctor about all your medical conditions, especially seizures, kidney and/ or liver aliments, mental ailments, and/ or eye problems apart from CMV retinitis before using ganciclovir. People taking ganciclovir should be aware of the fact that this medication may result in drowsiness, dizziness, make you unstable, confused or less attentive or even cause seizures. Hence, they should avoid undertaking any work that requires alertness, such as driving a vehicle or operating any machinery, until they are sure about the way the medication affects them.

Women who want to take ganciclovir for their condition should tell their doctor if they are breast feeding and they should not breast feed while undergoing treatment with this medication as the drug is known to pass on to breast milk. However, they may resume breast feeding when they have stopped this medication. It is advisable that such women consult their doctor regarding the benefits and risks of taking this medication.

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If you are taking ganciclovir and require undergoing any surgery or dental operation, tell your surgeon or dentist that you are using this medication.

Usage

The antiviral drug ganciclovir is used to treat or prevent viral infections, especially those caused by cytomegalovirus (CMV). People having a weak immune system are often infected by CMV in the eyes and this is very common among AIDS patients. In addition, CMV infections may occur more extensively in people who have some kind of transplantation, especially who have received bone marrow or organ transplants and who are undergoing treatment with medications, such as immunosuppressants, to avert rejection of the transplant by the body.

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It may be noted that diseases caused by CMV have the aptitude to result in serious infections in different part of the body, counting the infection of the eyes known as CMV retinitis, which can often result in blindness. Ganciclovir works by interfering with the activities of the enzymes that are responsible for the multiplication of CMV virus. This medication not only helps the virus from spreading to different parts of the body, but also facilitates in controlling CMV retinitis as well lessen the risks of becoming blind. As aforementioned, ganciclovir is particularly prescribed for people with damaged immune systems and those who suffer from CMV retinitis, including AIDS patients.

Usually, ganciclovir intravenous injection is first administered to alleviate the disease and subsequently continued to manage the symptoms of the ailment, a procedure known as maintenance treatment. However, when the injection cannot be administered, the oral form of ganciclovir is given to some patients as maintenance treatment. However, using the oral form of the medication in place of the injection form may enhance the speed of development of CMV retinitis. It should be remembered that ganciclovir cannot cure the CMV infections, but it can certainly keep the infection under control and prevent it from spreading to new areas. It has been found that despite undergoing treatment with intravenous ganciclovir, CMV retinitis may worsen in a number of patients. Hence, people suffering from CMV retinitis should have regular eye check-ups by their doctor. In addition to its above mentioned uses, ganciclovir may also be prescribed to cancer patients receiving chemotherapy treatment with a view to prevent the occurrence of CMV disease in them.

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How to use ganciclovir

Ganciclovir is available as an oral medication as well as in injection form. The oral medication, available in capsule form, ought to be taken with food generally thrice to six times everyday or according to your doctor's prescription. Remember never to open, squash or chew the capsules. People taking ganciclovir capsules ought to drink plenty of fluids, unless they are advised otherwise by their doctor. It is important to wash your hands meticulously every time you handle the medication. In addition, take care to avert any direct contact with the ingredients of the capsules, for instance getting the contents on your skin, in the eyes, in the mucous membrane and/ or inhaling the powdery ingredients. Also be careful to evade getting in touch with the crushed or broken ganciclovir capsules. In case you come in contact with the ingredients of the capsule, immediately wash the area using soap and water. In the event of this medication getting into the eyes, wash the eyes with plain water.

Always take care to discard the outdated medications or those no longer required. Never discard the medication by flushing it down the toilet or pouring it into the drain. Remember, ganciclovir requires special methods of disposal. You may consult your pharmacist or the neighborhood disposal company to learn about the proper and safe method of disposing this medication.

Usually, the dose as well as the duration of treatment with ganciclovir depends on the medical condition of the patients and their response to the treatment. Ganciclovir works most excellently when the amount of drug or the drug level remains constant in your body. Hence, it is important to take this medication at equally spaced intervals. In order to help you remember when you ought to take this medication, take it around the same time everyday. It is also important to strictly follow your doctor's instructions while taking ganciclovir. Take the medication exactly as recommended by your doctor and never alter the dosage or stop taking it even for a brief period of time without prior consultation with your doctor. If you change the dosage of the medication or stop taking it without consulting your doctor, it may enhance the risks of the side effects or worsen the infections.

If you are taking ganciclovir, never change to the other antiviral drug valganciclovir without consulting your doctor or pharmacist. Remember the dosage as well as the effects of both these drugs are not the same. While you are being treated with ganciclovir, it is important to keep all your appointments with your doctor and the laboratory. Since you cannot afford to miss a single dose of this medication, always get you prescription refills in advance. If you find that your condition persists or worsens, for instance, deteriorating vision, get in touch with your doctor and discuss the problem as well as ask him what you should do in such a situation.

How ganciclovir works

Ganciclovir belongs to the class of drugs known as antiviral and it works by obstructing the action of the enzymes required by viruses for multiplying, especially for the reproduction of viral DNA within the cells. This way, ganciclovir helps in preventing the virus from multiplying as well as spreading to the different body parts. In effect, it helps to control viral infections.

Side effects

Serious
Less common

Possible interactions

Like any other medicament, the antiviral medication ganciclovir is also known to interact with a number of other medications, especially herbal products or minerals and hence, they ought not to be taken concurrently. A number of patients use the herb Echinacea with a view to perk up their immune systems. However, it is unfortunate to known that the use of Echinacea is not advisable in people having impaired immune systems. Here is a word of caution for patients taking ganciclovir. Using St. John's wort also has the aptitude to result in severe reactions to the sun. In this case, additive photosensitivity is also possible.

Although people taking ganciclovir do not have any restrictions regarding consumption of alcoholic beverages, but the fact remains that such drinks have the potential to make the immune system dull. People taking this medication should avoid smoking marijuana, as it may add to drowsiness and exhaustion. Similarly, patients using this medication should be careful to avoid exposure to sunlight, as it may result in photosensitivity. Even when they need to go outdoors in the sun, they should wear protective clothing, sunglasses and use sunscreen.

Discontinuation

Do not stop taking ganciclovir abruptly. It is important that you consult your doctor before you stop taking this medication for any reason.

Storage instructions

The intravenous form of ganciclovir should be stored at 36°F (4°C) and must be used within 12 hours of its reconstitution. Always store this medication in a dark and dry place. Never ever store this medication in your bathroom, as the condition there is mostly damp. Remember to keep all medications in such a place, which is beyond the reach of children and pets. Always use a safe method to discard the medications.

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