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Visudyne (Verteporfin) - Warnings and Precautions



Following injection with Visudyne® (verteporfin for injection), care should be taken to avoid exposure of skin or eyes to direct sunlight or bright indoor light for 5 days. In the event of extravasation during infusion, the extravasation area must be thoroughly protected from direct light until the swelling and discoloration have faded in order to prevent the occurrence of a local burn which could be severe. If emergency surgery is necessary within 48 hours after treatment, as much of the internal tissue as possible should be protected from intense light.

Patients who experience severe decrease of vision of ≥4 lines within 1 week after treatment should not be retreated, at least until their vision completely recovers to pretreatment levels and the potential benefits and risks of subsequent treatment are carefully considered by the treating physician.

Use of incompatible lasers that do not provide the required characteristics of light for the photoactivation of Visudyne  could result in incomplete treatment due to partial photoactivation of Visudyne, overtreatment due to overactivation of Visudyne, or damage to surrounding normal tissue.



Standard precautions should be taken during infusion of Visudyne® (verteporfin for injection) to avoid extravasation. Examples of standard precautions include, but are not limited to:

  • A free-flowing intravenous (IV) line should be established before starting Visudyne infusion and the line should be carefully monitored.
  • Due to the possible fragility of vein walls of some elderly patients, it is strongly recommended that the largest arm vein possible, preferably antecutibal, be used for injection.
  • Small veins in the back of the hand should be avoided.

Extravasation of Visudyne, especially if the affected area is exposed to light, can cause severe pain, inflammation, swelling or discoloration at the injection site.

If extravasation does occur, the infusion should be stopped immediately. The extravasation area must be thoroughly protected from direct light until swelling and discoloration have faded in order to prevent the occurrence of a local burn, which could be severe. Cold compresses should be applied to the injection site. (see Warnings). Oral medications for pain relief may be administered.

Visudyne therapy should be considered carefully in patients with moderate to severe hepatic impairment or biliary obstruction since there is no clinical experience with verteporfin in such patients.

There is no clinical data related to the use of Visudyne in anesthetized patients. At a >10-fold higher dose given by bolus injection to sedated or anesthetized pigs, verteporfin caused severe hemodynamic effects, including death, probably as a result of complement activation. These effects were diminished or abolished by pretreatment with antihistamine and they were not seen in conscious nonsedated pigs. VISUDYNE resulted in a concentration-dependent increase in complement activation in human blood in vitro. At 10 µg/mL (approximately 5 times the expected plasma concentration in human patients), there was mild to moderate complement activation. At ≥100 µg/mL, there was significant complement activation. Signs (chest pain, syncope, dyspnea, and flushing) consistent with complement activation have been observed in <1% of patients administered Visudyne. Patients should be supervised during Visudyne infusion.

Information for Patients

Patients who receive Visudyne will become temporarily photosensitive after the infusion. Patients should wear a wristband to remind them to avoid direct sunlight for 5 days. During that period, patients should avoid exposure of unprotected skin, eyes or other body organs to direct sunlight or bright indoor light. Sources of bright light include, but are not limited to, tanning salons, bright halogen lighting and high power lighting used in surgical operating rooms or dental offices. Prolonged exposure to light from light-emitting medical devices such as pulse oximeters should also be avoided for 5 days following Visudyne administration.

If treated patients must go outdoors in daylight during the first 5 days after treatment, they should protect all parts of their skin and their eyes by wearing protective clothing and dark sunglasses. UV sunscreens are not effective in protecting against photosensitivity reactions because photoactivation of the residual drug in the skin can be caused by visible light.

Patients should not stay in the dark and should be encouraged to expose their skin to ambient indoor light, as it will help inactivate the drug in the skin through a process called photobleaching.

Following Visudyne treatment, patients may develop visual disturbances such as abnormal vision, vision decrease, or visual field defects that may interfere with their ability to drive or use machines. Patients should not drive or use machines as long as these symptoms persist.

Drug Interactions

Drug interaction studies in humans have not been conducted with Visudyne.

Verteporfin is rapidly eliminated by the liver, mainly as unchanged drug. Metabolism is limited and occurs by liver and plasma esterases. Microsomal cytochrome P450 does not appear to play a role in verteporfin metabolism.

Based on the mechanism of action of verteporfin, many drugs used concomitantly could influence the effect of Visudyne therapy. Possible examples include the following:

Calcium channel blockers, polymyxin B or radiation therapy could enhance the rate of Visudyne uptake by the vascular endothelium. Other photosensitizing agents (e.g., tetracyclines, sulfonamides, phenothiazines, sulfonylurea hypoglycemic agents, thiazide diuretics and griseofulvin) could increase the potential for skin photosensitivity reactions. Compounds that quench active oxygen species or scavenge radicals, such as dimethyl sulfoxide, β-carotene, ethanol, formate and mannitol, would be expected to decrease Visudyne activity. Drugs that decrease clotting, vasoconstriction or platelet aggregation, e.g., thromboxane A2 inhibitors, could also decrease the efficacy of Visudyne therapy.

Carcinogenesis, Mutagenesis, Impairment of Fertility

No studies have been conducted to evaluate the carcinogenic potential of verteporfin.

Photodynamic therapy (PDT) as a class has been reported to result in DNA damage including DNA strand breaks, alkali-labile sites, DNA degradation, and DNA-protein cross links which may result in chromosomal aberrations, sister chromatid exchanges (SCE), and mutations. In addition, other photodynamic therapeutic agents have been shown to increase the incidence of SCE in Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells irradiated with visible light and in Chinese hamster lung fibroblasts irradiated with near UV light, increase mutations and DNA-protein cross-linking in mouse L5178 cells, and increase DNA-strand breaks in malignant human cervical carcinoma cells, but not in normal cells. Verteporfin was not evaluated in these latter systems. It is not known how the potential for DNA damage with PDT agents translates into human risk.

No effect on male or female fertility has been observed in rats following intravenous administration of verteporfin for injection up to 10 mg/kg/day (approximately 60- and 40-fold human exposure at 6 mg/m2 based on AUCinf in male and female rats, respectively).


Teratogenic Effects: Pregnancy Category C

Rat fetuses of dams administered verteporfin for injection intravenously at ≥10 mg/kg/day during organogenesis (approximately 40-fold human exposure at 6 mg/m2 based on AUCinf in female rats) exhibited an increase in the incidence of anophthalmia/microphthalmia. Rat fetuses of dams administered 25 mg/kg/day (approximately 125 fold the human exposure at 6 mg/m2 based on AUCinf in female rats) had an increased incidence of wavy ribs and anophthalmia/microphthalmia.

In pregnant rabbits, a decrease in body weight gain and food consumption was observed in animals that received verteporfin for injection intravenously at ≥10 mg/kg/day during organogenesis. The no observed adverse effect level (NOAEL) for maternal toxicity was 3 mg/kg/day (approximately 7-fold human exposure at 6 mg/m2 based on body surface area). There were no teratogenic effects observed in rabbits at doses up to 10 mg/kg/day.

There are no adequate and well-controlled studies in pregnant women. Visudyne should be used during pregnancy only if the benefit justifies the potential risk to the fetus.

Nursing Mothers

Verteporfin and its diacid metabolite have been found in the breast milk of one woman after a 6 mg/m2 infusion. The verteporfin breast milk levels were up to 66% of the corresponding plasma levels and declined below the limit of quantification (2 ng/mL) within 24 hours.  The diacid metabolite had lower peak concentrations but persisted up to at least 48 hours.

Because of the potential for serious adverse reactions in nursing infants from Visudyne, a decision should be made whether to discontinue nursing or postpone treatment, taking into account the importance of the drug to the mother.

Pediatric Use

Safety and effectiveness in pediatric patients have not been established.

Geriatric Use

Approximately 90% of the patients treated with Visudyne in the clinical efficacy trials were over the age of 65. A reduced treatment effect was seen with increasing age.

Page last updated: 2010-04-07

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