INVIRASE — saquinavir mesylate tablet, film coated
State of Florida DOH Central Pharmacy

Product identification in this document includes: INVIRASE in reference to saquinavir mesylate; saquinavir soft gel capsules in reference to saquinavir 200 mg soft gel capsule formulation 1, and saquinavir in reference to the active base.

The term “saquinavir soft gel capsules” used in this label refers to the drug product formerly marketed as “Fortovase” (saquinavir 200 mg soft gel capsule formulation). This formulation has been withdrawn from the market.


INVIRASE brand of saquinavir mesylate is an inhibitor of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) protease. INVIRASE is available as light brown and green, opaque hard gelatin capsules for oral administration in a 200-mg strength (as saquinavir free base). Each capsule also contains the inactive ingredients lactose, microcrystalline cellulose, povidone K30, sodium starch glycolate, talc, and magnesium stearate. Each capsule shell contains gelatin and water with the following dye systems: red iron oxide, yellow iron oxide, black iron oxide, FD&C Blue #2, and titanium dioxide.

INVIRASE is also available as a light orange to greyish- or brownish-orange, oval cylindrical, biconvex film-coated tablet for oral administration in a 500-mg strength (as saquinavir free base). Each tablet also contains the inactive ingredients lactose, microcrystalline cellulose, povidone K30, croscarmellose sodium, and magnesium stearate. Each film coat contains hypromellose, titanium dioxide, talc, iron oxide yellow, iron oxide red, and triacetin.

The chemical name for saquinavir mesylate is N-tert-butyl-decahydro-2-[2(R)-hydroxy-4-phenyl-3(S)-[[N-(2-quinolylcarbonyl)-L-asparaginyl]amino]butyl]-(4aS,8aS)-isoquinoline-3(S)-carboxamide methanesulfonate with a molecular formula C38 H50 N6 O5 •CH4 O3 S and a molecular weight of 766.96. The molecular weight of the free base is 670.86. Saquinavir mesylate has the following structural formula:

Chemical Structure

Saquinavir mesylate is a white to off-white, very fine powder with an aqueous solubility of 2.22 mg/mL at 25°C.


Mechanism of Action

Saquinavir is an inhibitor of HIV protease. HIV protease is an enzyme required for the proteolytic cleavage of viral polyprotein precursors into individual functional proteins found in infectious HIV. Saquinavir is a peptide-like substrate analogue that binds to the protease active site and inhibits the activity of the enzyme. Saquinavir inhibition prevents cleavage of the viral polyproteins resulting in the formation of immature noninfectious virus particles.

Antiviral Activity

In vitro antiviral activity of saquinavir was assessed in lymphoblastoid and monocytic cell lines and in peripheral blood lymphocytes. Saquinavir inhibited HIV activity in both acutely and chronically infected cells. IC50 and IC90 values (50% and 90% inhibitory concentrations) were in the range of 1 to 30 nM and 5 to 80 nM, respectively. In the presence of 40% human serum, the mean IC50 of saquinavir against laboratory strain HIV-1 RF in MT4 cells was 37.7± 5 nM representing a 4-fold increase in the IC50 value. In cell culture, saquinavir demonstrated additive to synergistic effects against HIV-1 in combination with reverse transcriptase inhibitors (didanosine, lamivudine, nevirapine, stavudine and zidovudine) without enhanced cytotoxicity. Saquinavir in combination with the protease inhibitors amprenavir, atazanavir, or lopinavir resulted in synergistic antiviral activity. Saquinavir displayed antiviral activity in vitro against HIV-1 clades A-H (IC50 ranged from 0.9 to 2.5 nM). The IC50 and IC90 values of saquinavir against HIV-2 isolates in vitro ranged from 0.25 nM to 14.6 nM and 4.65 nM to 28.6 nM, respectively.

Drug Resistance

HIV-1 mutants with reduced susceptibility to saquinavir have been selected during in vitro passage. Genotypic analyses of these isolates showed several substitutions in the HIV protease gene. Only the G48V and L90M substitutions were associated with reduced susceptibility to saquinavir, and conferred an increase in the IC50 value of 8- and 3-fold, respectively.

HIV-1 isolates with reduced susceptibility (≥4-fold increase in the IC50 value) to saquinavir emerged in some patients treated with INVIRASE. Genotypic analysis of these isolates identified resistance conferring primary mutations in the protease gene G48V and L90M, and secondary mutations L10I/R/V, I54V/L, A71V/T, G73S, V77I, V82A and I84V that contributed additional resistance to saquinavir. Forty-one isolates from 37 patients failing therapy with INVIRASE had a median decrease in susceptibility to saquinavir of 4.3-fold.

The degree of reduction in in vitro susceptibility to saquinavir of clinical isolates bearing substitutions G48V and L90M depends on the number of secondary mutations present. In general, higher levels of resistance are associated with greater number of mutations only in association with either or both of the primary mutations G48V and L90M. No data are currently available to address the development of resistance in patients receiving saquinavir/ritonavir.


Among protease inhibitors, variable cross-resistance has been observed. In one clinical study, 22 HIV-1 isolates with reduced susceptibility (>4-fold increase in the IC50 value) to saquinavir following therapy with INVIRASE were evaluated for cross-resistance to amprenavir, indinavir, nelfinavir and ritonavir. Six of the 22 isolates (27%) remained susceptible to all 4 protease inhibitors, 12 of the 22 isolates (55%) retained susceptibility to at least one of the PIs and 4 out of the 22 isolates (18%) displayed broad cross-resistance to all PIs. Sixteen (73%) and 11 (50%) of the 22 isolates remained susceptible (<4-fold) to amprenavir and indinavir, respectively. Four of 16 (25%) and nine of 21 (43%) with available data remained susceptible to nelfinavir and ritonavir, respectively.

After treatment failure with amprenavir, cross-resistance to saquinavir was evaluated. HIV-1 isolates from 22/22 patients failing treatment with amprenavir and containing one or more mutations M46L/I, I50V, I54L, V32I, I47V, and I84V were susceptible to saquinavir.



The pharmacokinetic properties of INVIRASE have been evaluated in healthy volunteers (n=351) and HIV-infected patients (n=270) after single- and multiple-oral doses of 25, 75, 200, and 600 mg three times daily and in healthy volunteers after intravenous doses of 6, 12, 36 or 72 mg (n=21). The pharmacokinetics of INVIRASE/ritonavir 1000/100 mg twice daily have also been evaluated in HIV-infected patients.

Similar bioavailability was demonstrated when INVIRASE 500 mg film-coated tablet (2 × 500 mg) and INVIRASE 200 mg capsule (5 × 200 mg) were administered with low-dose ritonavir (100 mg) under fed conditions. The ratio of mean exposures (90% confidence intervals) of tablets vs capsules were 1.10 (1.04-1.16) for AUC0-∞ and 1.19 (1.14-1.25) for Cmax .

Absorption and Bioavailability in Adults

Absolute bioavailability of saquinavir administered as INVIRASE averaged 4% (CV 73%, range: 1% to 9%) in 8 healthy volunteers who received a single 600-mg dose (3 × 200 mg) of saquinavir mesylate following a high-fat breakfast (48 g protein, 60 g carbohydrate, 57 g fat; 1006 kcal). The low bioavailability is thought to be due to a combination of incomplete absorption and extensive first-pass metabolism.

INVIRASE in combination with ritonavir at a dose of 1000/100 mg twice daily provides saquinavir systemic exposures over a 24-hour period that are similar to those achieved with saquinavir soft gel capsules (FORTOVASE) with ritonavir 1000/100 mg twice daily and greater than that achieved with saquinavir soft gel capsules 1200 mg three times daily (see Table 1). The 1200 mg three times daily regimen for FORTOVASE was an approved regimen for which efficacy of saquinavir was demonstrated. Thus, the exposure resulting from this FORTOVASE regimen forms the lower bound for efficacy for all subsequent saquinavir dosing regimens.1

Table 1 Pharmacokinetic Parameters of Saquinavir at Steady-State After Administration of Different Regimens in HIV-Infected Patients
Dosing Regimen N AUCτ (ng∙h/mL) AUC24h (ng∙h/mL) Cmin (ng/mL)
τ is the dosing interval (ie, 8h if three times daily and 12h if twice daily)
INVIRASE 600 mg tid (arithmetic mean, %CV) 10 866 (62) 2598 79
Saquinavir soft gel capsules (FORTOVASE) 1200 mg tid (arithmetic mean) 31 7249 21747 216
INVIRASE 1000 mg bid + ritonavir 100 mg bid (geometric mean and 95% CI) 24 14607 (10218-20882) 29214 371 (245-561)
Saquinavir soft gel capsules 1000 mg bid + ritonavir 100 mg bid (geometric mean and 95% CI) 24 19085 (13943-26124) 38170 433 (301-622)

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