Background: HIV antiretroviral therapy (ART) is often managed without routine laboratory monitoring in Africa; however, the effect of this approach is unknown. This trial investigated whether routine toxicity and efficacy monitoring of HIV-infected patients receiving ART had an important long-term effect on clinical outcomes in Africa.
Methods: In this open, non-inferiority trial in three centres in Uganda and one in Zimbabwe, 3321 symptomatic, ART-naive, HIV-infected adults with CD4 counts less than 200 cells per microL starting ART were randomly assigned to laboratory and clinical monitoring (LCM; n=1659) or clinically driven monitoring (CDM; n=1662) by a computer-generated list. Haematology, biochemistry, and CD4-cell counts were done every 12 weeks. In the LCM group, results were available to clinicians; in the CDM group, results (apart from CD4-cell count) could be requested if clinically indicated and grade 4 toxicities were available. Participants switched to second-line ART after new or recurrent WHO stage 4 events in both groups, or CD4 count less than 100 cells per microL (LCM only). Co-primary endpoints were new WHO stage 4 HIV events or death, and serious adverse events. Non-inferiority was defined as the upper 95% confidence limit for the hazard ratio (HR) for new WHO stage 4 events or death being no greater than 1.18. Analyses were by intention to treat. This study is registered, number ISRCTN13968779.
Findings: Two participants assigned to CDM and three to LCM were excluded from analyses. 5-year survival was 87% (95% CI 85-88) in the CDM group and 90% (88-91) in the LCM group, and 122 (7%) and 112 (7%) participants, respectively, were lost to follow-up over median 4.9 years' follow-up. 459 (28%) participants receiving CDM versus 356 (21%) LCM had a new WHO stage 4 event or died (6.94 [95% CI 6.33-7.60] vs 5.24 [4.72-5.81] per 100 person-years; absolute difference 1.70 per 100 person-years [0.87-2.54]; HR 1.31 [1.14-1.51]; p=0.0001). Differences in disease progression occurred from the third year on ART, whereas higher rates of switch to second-line treatment occurred in LCM from the second year. 283 (17%) participants receiving CDM versus 260 (16%) LCM had a new serious adverse event (HR 1.12 [0.94-1.32]; p=0.19), with anaemia the most common (76 vs 61 cases).
Interpretation: ART can be delivered safely without routine laboratory monitoring for toxic effects, but differences in disease progression suggest a role for monitoring of CD4-cell count from the second year of ART to guide the switch to second-line treatment.
Funding: UK Medical Research Council, the UK Department for International Development, the Rockefeller Foundation, GlaxoSmithKline, Gilead Sciences, Boehringer-Ingelheim, and Abbott Laboratories.
Copyright 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.