Determinants of recurrent toxicity-driven switches of highly active antiretroviral therapy. The ATHENA cohort

AIDS. 2002 Mar 29;16(5):737-45. doi: 10.1097/00002030-200203290-00009.


Background: Toxicity is the most important reason for premature switching of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). In order to optimize the benefit-risk ratio of HAART, guidelines for toxicity management are needed.

Objective: An observational cohort study to estimate the incidence and identify determinants of toxicity-driven switches on second-line HAART after having switched first-line HAART despite successful viral suppression.

Methods: Patients were selected from those in the ATHENA cohort (n = 2470) who switched the initial HIV protease inhibitor (PI)-containing HAART while plasma HIV-1 RNA was <or= 500 copies/ml (n = 775). One-year cumulative incidences of subsequent toxicity-driven switches and adjusted relative risks (RR) for potential determinants were calculated.

Results: The 1-year cumulative incidence of toxicity-driven switches of the second regimen was 24% [95% confidence interval (CI), 21-28], mostly because of gastrointestinal toxicity and neuropathy. Those who had switched from first HAART because of toxicity were at an increased risk of a recurrent toxicity-driven switch (RR, 2.5; 95% CI, 1.7-3.5). Switching from PI to nevirapine while continuing the other antiretroviral drugs was more protective against a subsequent switch because of further toxicity than changing to another PI-containing regimen (RR, 0.2; 95% CI, 0.1-0.6).

Conclusions: As for first-line HAART, toxicity is responsible for the majority of switches during second-line HAART. Prior switching for toxicity increased the risk of having to switch the subsequent regimen for toxicity, but this risk is reduced when switching to nevirapine rather than to an alternative PI. The latter should be taken into account when designing toxicity-management guidelines.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-HIV Agents / adverse effects*
  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antiretroviral Therapy, Highly Active
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / immunology
  • HIV Infections / virology
  • HIV Protease Inhibitors / adverse effects*
  • HIV Protease Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • HIV-1* / drug effects
  • HIV-1* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Recurrence
  • Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors / adverse effects*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Viral Load


  • Anti-HIV Agents
  • HIV Protease Inhibitors
  • Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors