Objective: To compare the effectiveness of three drug combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) in treatment-naive HIV-infected persons, and identify the predictors of responses.
Design and methods: Overview of trials identified by searching public domain publications and conference presentations. The three-drug combination therapy was defined as two nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTI) or nucleotide and NRTI, and either: (1) a protease inhibitor (PI); (2) a non-nucleoside RTI (NNRTI); (3) a third NRTI; or (4) a ritonavir-boosted PI (BPI). Week 24 and 48 results for the proportions of patients with plasma HIV RNA levels < 400 and < 50 copies/ml, and change in CD4(+) cell counts were recorded.
Results: Fifty-three trials met the entry criteria, and enrolled 14 264 patients into 90 treatment arms. Overall 55% of patients had plasma HIV RNA levels < 50 copies/ml at week 48 and this percentage increased with later publication dates. In unadjusted pairwise comparisons at week 48, significantly greater percentages of patients receiving NNRTI (64%) and BPI (64%) had RNA < 50 copies/ml than NRTI (54%) or PI (43%), and CD4(+) cell count increases were significantly greater in the BPI group (+200 cells/microl) than the PI (+179), NNRTI (+173), or NRTI (+161) groups. Pill count and percentage of patients with week 48 plasma HIV RNA levels < 50 copies/ml were correlated in the univariate analysis (P = 0.0053; r = -0.323), but pill count was not a significant predictor in the multivariate analyses. Drug class and baseline CD4(+) cell counts were significant predictors, but explained only a modest amount of the treatment effect, (R(2) = 0.355).
Conclusions: NNRTI and BPI-containing regimens offer superior virologic suppression over 48 weeks, supporting existing guidelines for the choice of initial ART. Pill count was not a consistent predictor of virologic suppression.