Background: Candida esophagitis remains an important cause of morbidity in patients with advanced human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. Fluconazole is widely regarded as the treatment of choice for this condition.
Methods: The efficacy and safety of caspofungin were compared with fluconazole in adult patients with Candida esophagitis in a double-blind randomized trial. Eligible patients had symptoms compatible with esophagitis, endoscopic demonstration of mucosal plaques, and microscopic demonstration of Candida from the esophageal lesions. Patients were randomly assigned to receive caspofungin (50 mg) or fluconazole (200 mg) intravenously once daily for 7 to 21 days. The primary endpoint was the combined response of symptom resolution and significant endoscopic improvement 5 to 7 days after discontinuation of treatment. Data were analyzed with a modified intention-to-treat analysis, which excluded 2 ineligible patients.
Results: Most patients (154/177; 87%) had HIV infection, with a median CD4 count of 30 cells/mm(3). Candida albicans was the predominant isolate. Favorable response rates were achieved in 66 (81%) of the 81 patients in the caspofungin arm and in 80 (85%) of the 94 patients in the fluconazole arm (difference = -4%; 95% confidence interval: -15% to +8%). Symptoms had resolved in >50% of patients in both groups by the fifth day of treatment. No patient in the caspofungin group developed a serious drug-related adverse event; therapy was only discontinued in 1 patient (receiving fluconazole) due to a drug-related adverse experience. Four weeks after stopping study drug, symptoms had recurred in 18 (28%) of 64 patients given caspofungin and in 12 (17%) of 72 patients given fluconazole (P = 0.19).
Conclusions: In this study, caspofungin appeared to be as efficacious and generally as well tolerated as fluconazole in patients with advanced HIV infection and documented Candida esophagitis.