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Sorivudine (BV-araU)

Sorivudine is also known as BV-araU or brovavir, or by the tradename "Usevir". Sorivudine is an experimental oral nucleoside anti-viral drug. In the test-tube it is highly active against herpes simplex and varicella zoster viruses. Univ. of AL, in Birmingham, did a study showing sorivudine "was superior to acyclovir in accelerating the events of cutaneous healing for HIV-infected patients with herpes zoster. Sorivudine has the additional advantage of a simplified once-a-day dosing regimen".

The drug was briefly licensed in Japan as treatment for zoster but withdrawn following 15 deaths in people also using 5-fluorouracil. It also has a dangerous interaction with the anti-fungal drug flucytosine, often used in combination with amphotericin to treat cryptococcal meningitis among people with AIDS. In June 1996 the US Food and Drug Administration also refused to license sorivudine, saying that its benefits were not great enough to outweigh the risk of this interaction.

Apart from this interaction, however, it is considered to be a very safe drug, with no more side-effects than the widely used anti-herpes drug acyclovir. However, Bristol-Myers Squibb, which licensed worldwide marketing rights from the drug’s discoverer, Yamasa Shoyu, has since returned the licence and is no longer developing the drug. Centaur is going for Phase II of a study in India and expect the drug to be approved there by 2013 for herpes zoster.


Andrei G et al. Comparative activity of selected antiviral compounds against clinical isolates of varicella-zoster virus. Eur J Clin Microbiol Infect Dis 14:318-329, 1995.

Okuda H et al. Lethal drug interactions of sorivudine, a new antiviral drug, with oral 5-flourouracil prodrugs. Drug Metab Dispos 25(5):270-273, 1997.

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