Background: A substantial number of patients start their first-line antiretroviral therapy at an advanced stage of an HIV-1 infection. Potential differences between specific drug regimens in antiviral efficacy and safety in these patients are of major importance.
Methods: A post-hoc analysis within the randomized controlled 2NN trial comparing efficacy between regimes containing nevirapine (NVP), efavirenz (EFV), or both, in addition to stavudine and lamivudine.
Primary outcome: risk of virologic failure in different strata of baseline CD4 T-lymphocyte counts and plasma HIV-1 RNA concentrations (pVL). Virologic failure: never reaching a pVL < 400 copies/ml, or a rebound to two consecutive values > 400 copies/ml.
Results: The risk of virologic failure was increased at very low CD4 counts (< 25 x 10(6) cells/l) compared to CD4 counts > 200 x 10(6) cells/l [hazard ratio (HR), 1.28; 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.93-1.77]. The same was seen for a pVL > or = 100,000 copies/ml compared to a lower pVL (HR, 1.20; CI, 0.96-1.50). There were no statistically significant differences between NVP and EFV in risk of virologic failure within any of the CD4 or pVL strata, although EFV performed slightly better in the low CD4 stratum. The incidence of rash in the NVP group was significantly higher in female patients with higher CD4 cell counts, while adverse events in the EFV group were not associated with CD4 cell count.
Conclusions: Initial antiretroviral therapy including NVP or EFV is effective in patients with an advanced HIV-1 infection. A high baseline CD4 cell count is associated with the occurrence of rash in female patients using NVP.