International journal of pharmaceutics

Are all aciclovir cream formulations bioequivalent?

PMID 16139970


Topical aciclovir cream (ACV, Zovirax Cream) containing 40% propylene glycol (PG), the optimum found for skin penetration, is clinically effective in the treatment of recurrent herpes labialis. One hundred and thirty-nine ACV generic creams were analysed and 80% of these contained less than 20% PG. From this, we hypothesised that these generics might be bioinequivalent to the innovator cream. A pilot in vitro skin permeation study compared the innovator cream with two generics containing about 15% PG. Next, 10 generics containing 0-15% PG were tested in an independent laboratory. Finally, a PG dose-ranging study was conducted in Zovirax cream base. In all studies, human skin was used and ACV analysed by LC-MS-MS. In the pilot study, the innovator cream delivered 7.5-fold more ACV than the two generics. Superiority was confirmed in the second study against all 10 ACV generic creams. By grouping the creams according to PG content, a relationship to ACV skin permeation was suggested. The PG dose effect was confirmed in the third study. These studies suggest that not all marketed ACV creams are bioequivalent to the clinically proven innovator. Given the magnitude of the differences seen, there is concern over therapeutic inequivalence of generic ACV creams to the innovator cream.