Enfuvirtide, a new fusion inhibitor for therapy of human immunodeficiency virus infection

Pharmacotherapy. 2004 Feb;24(2):198-211. doi: 10.1592/phco.


Enfuvirtide is the first fusion inhibitor to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of chronic human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection in adults and children 6 years and older. The drug is a synthetic peptide derived from a naturally occurring amino acid sequence known as heptad repeat 2 (HR2) found in gp41, a viral transmembrane glycoprotein that facilitates fusion with host cells. By mimicking the activity of HR2 and competitively binding to a second region of gp41, heptad repeat 1 (HR1), enfuvirtide prevents interaction between HR1 and HR2 and inhibits the conformational change of gp41 that is necessary for fusion of virions to host cells. The safety and efficacy of enfuvirtide have been studied only in antiretroviral-experienced persons. Preliminary data from two multicenter phase III clinical trials (T-20 versus Optimized Regimen Only [TORO 1, TORO 2]) suggest that the drug is safe and efficacious in heavily pretreated subjects through 24 weeks. By week 24, in TORO 1 and TORO 2, respectively, mean changes in HIV RNA concentrations of -1.7 and -1.4 log10 copies/ml were observed in subjects receiving enfuvirtide plus an optimized background (OB) regimen, compared with changes of -0.8 and -0.7 log10 copies/ml in subjects receiving an OB regimen alone. Resistance to enfuvirtide has been identified in vitro and in vivo. Most resistant variants contain mutations in the HR1 region of gp41 (positions 36-45). In phase III clinical trials, numerous substitutions within this critical region were associated with faster time to virologic failure over 24 weeks. Overall, enfuvirtide appears to be well tolerated and acceptable to patients despite a high rate of injection site reactions (> 90%). Bacterial pneumonia and eosinophilia occurred more frequently in subjects taking enfuvirtide than in those taking an OB regimen alone in phase III trials; however, no causal relationship was established. Like most drugs with peptide structures, enfuvirtide appears to have a low potential for metabolic drug-drug interactions. The approved dosage is 90 mg twice/day by subcutaneous injection in adults and 2 mg/kg twice/day in children older than 6 years. Enfuvirtide is an addition to antiretroviral therapy since it targets a new step in the HIV life cycle. Given the complexity of its production and administration, however, it is likely to be most useful in antiretroviral-experienced patients.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Clinical Trial, Phase I
  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Clinical Trial, Phase III
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Enfuvirtide
  • HIV Envelope Protein gp41 / chemistry
  • HIV Envelope Protein gp41 / therapeutic use*
  • HIV Fusion Inhibitors / chemistry
  • HIV Fusion Inhibitors / pharmacokinetics
  • HIV Fusion Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Injections, Subcutaneous
  • Peptide Fragments / chemistry
  • Peptide Fragments / pharmacokinetics
  • Peptide Fragments / therapeutic use*


  • HIV Envelope Protein gp41
  • HIV Fusion Inhibitors
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Enfuvirtide