Background: Efficacy of oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in prevention of HIV acquisition has been evaluated using a daily regimen. However, adherence to long term daily medication is rarely perfect. Intermittent regimen may be a feasible alternative. Preclinical studies have demonstrated effectiveness of intermittent PrEP in SHIV prevention among animals. However, little is known about intermittent PrEP regimens.
Design: Seventy two HIV-uninfected volunteers in HIV serodiscordant couple relationships in Uganda were randomly assigned to receive daily oral Tenofovir/Emtricitabine (TDF/FTC-Truvada) or placebo, or intermittent (Monday, Friday and within 2 hours after sex, not to exceed one dose per day) oral TDF/FTC or placebo in a 2:1:2:1 ratio. Volunteers and study staff were blinded to drug assignment, but not to regimen assignment.
Methods: Volunteers were followed for 4 months after randomization, with monthly clinical and laboratory safety assessments and comprehensive HIV risk reduction services. Adherence was monitored using medication event monitoring system (MEMS) and self-report. Sexual activity data were collected via daily short text message (SMS) and self-report. HIV-specific immune responses were assessed by IFN-γ ELISPOT.
Results: Both daily and intermittent oral TDF/FTC regimens were well tolerated. Median MEMS adherence rates were 98% (IQR: 93-100) for daily PrEP regimen, 91% (IQR: 73-97) for fixed intermittent dosing and 45% (IQR: 20-63) for post-coital dosing. SMS response rate was 74%, but increased to 80% after excluding server outages; results may have been affected by the novelty of this measure. The majority of volunteers expressed willingness with no particular preference for either regimen.
Conclusions: Both daily and intermittent oral PrEP dosing regimens were safe. Adherence was high for daily and fixed intermittent dosing; post-coital dosing was associated with poor adherence. Fixed intermittent PrEP regimens may be feasible especially if a minimum effective drug concentration correlating with HIV prevention can be achieved with this dosing.
Registration: Clinicaltrials.gov number NCT00931346.