The inhibitory and inducing effects of ritonavir on hepatic and intestinal CYP3A and other drug-handling proteins.


Ritonavir, originally developed as HIV protease inhibitor, is widely used as a booster in several HIV pharmacotherapy regimens and more recently in Covid-19 treatment (e.g., Paxlovid). Its boosting capacity is due to the highly potent irreversible inhibition of the cytochrome P450 (CYP) 3 A enzyme, thereby enhancing the plasma exposure to coadministered drugs metabolized by CYP3A. Typically used booster doses of ritonavir are 100-200 mg once or twice daily. This review aims to address several aspects of this booster drug, including the possibility to use lower ritonavir doses, 20 mg for instance, resulting in partial CYP3A inactivation in patients. If complete CYP3A inhibition is not needed, lower ritonavir doses could be used, thereby reducing unwanted side effects. In this context, there are contradictory reports on the actual recovery time of CYP3A activity after ritonavir discontinuation, but probably this will take at least one day. In addition to ritonavir's CYP3A inhibitory effect, it can also induce and/or inhibit other CYP enzymes and drug transporters, albeit to a lesser extent. Although ritonavir thus exhibits gene induction capacities, with respect to CYP3A activity the inhibition capacity clearly predominates. Another potent CYP3A inhibitor, the ritonavir analog cobicistat, has been reported to lack the ability to induce enzyme and transporter genes. This might result in a more favorable drug-drug interaction profile compared to ritonavir, although the actual benefit appears to be limited. Indeed, ritonavir is still the clinically most used pharmacokinetic enhancer, indicating that its side effects are well manageable, even in chronic administration regimens.

More about this publication

Biomedicine & pharmacotherapy = Biomedecine & pharmacotherapie
  • Volume 162
  • Pages 114636
  • Publication date 01-06-2023

This site uses cookies

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website.