Drug Class, PI

Name: Drug Class, PI

What are protease inhibitors (PIs), and how do they work?

Protease inhibitors (PIs) are antiviral drugs used for treating human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections and hepatitis C virus (HCV) infections.

During infection with HIV or hepatitis C, the HIV or HCV multiply within the body's cells. Viruses are released from the cells and spread throughout the body where they infect other cells. In this manner, HIV and hepatitis C infection is perpetuated among new cells that the body produces continually. During the production of the viruses, new proteins are made. Some of the proteins are structural proteins that form the body of the virus. Other proteins are enzymes that manufacture DNA and other components for the new viruses. Protease is an enzyme that is used in the formation of new structural proteins and enzymes. Protease inhibitors block the activity of protease (cleavage of protein precursors needed for viral structure synthesis) and this results in the formation of defective viruses that are unable to infect the body's cells. As a result, the number of HIV or hepatitis C viruses in the body (the viral load) decreases.

List of 16 examples of brand and generic names available for protease inhibitors (PIs) in the US

HIV protease inhibitors

  • Aptivus (tipranavir)
  • Reyataz (atazanavir)
  • Crixivan, IDV (indinavir)
  • Prezista (darunavir)
  • Lexiva (fosamprenavir)
  • Invirase (saquinavir)
  • Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir)
  • Viracept (nelfinavir)
  • Norvir (ritonavir)

Hepatitis C virus (HCV) protease inhibitors

  • Victrelis (boceprevir - discontinued)
  • Incivek (telaprevir - discontinued)
  • Olysio (simeprevir)
  • Technivie (ombitasvir/paritaprevir and ritonavir, a combination of these three drugs)
  • Viekira Pak (ombitasvir/paritaprevir/ritonavir and dasabuvir, a combination of these four drugs)

What are the uses for protease inhibitors (PIs)?

  • Protease inhibitors are used to treat HIV or hepatitis C virus infections. HIV protease inhibitors do not prevent the transmission of HIV among individuals, and they do not cure HIV infection or AIDS. However, HIV protease inhibitors can reduce the viral load to very low levels and reduce the risk of opportunistic infections. The discovery of HIV protease inhibitors revolutionized the management of HIV infection and the course of the disease.
  • Hepatitis C virus protease inhibitors can cure hepatitis C infection, and are more effective than other hepatitis C treatments.
  • The FDA approved the first hepatitis C virus protease inhibitor in 2011.

What drug interactions occur with protease inhibitors (PIs)?

Protease inhibitors have many drug interactions because they affect the action of liver enzymes that alter many drugs and because several other drugs affect the breakdown of protease inhibitors in the liver. Here are some examples of protease inhibitor drug interactions.

Protease inhibitor drugs may increase blood levels of the following drugs:

  • alfuzosin (Uroxatral)
  • doxazosin (Cardura)
  • silodosin (Rapaflo)
  • tamsulosin (Flomax)
  • sildenafil (Viagra, Revatio)
  • tadalafil (Cialis)
  • warfarin (Coumadin, Jantoven)
  • simvastatin (Zocor)
  • lovastatin (Mevacor)
  • amiodarone (Cordarone)

These drugs may increase blood levels of protease inhibitors:

  • ketoconazole (Nizoral)
  • itraconazole (Sporanox)
  • fluconazole (Diflucan)
  • voriconazole (Vfend)
  • clarithromycin (Biaxin)
  • erythromycin (Erythrocin)
  • fluoxetine (Prozac)

The following drugs reduce blood levels of protease inhibitors:

  • carbamazepine (Tegretol)
  • phenobarbital
  • phenytoin (Dilantin)
  • rifampin
  • St. John's Wort


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Reviewed on 1/5/2017 References REFERENCES:

AIDSinfo.gov. "Recommendations for Use of Antiretroviral Drugs in Pregnant HIV-1-Infected Women for Maternal Health and Interventions to Reduce Perinatal HIV Transmission in the United States." Updated: Oct 26, 2016.

FDA Prescribing Information