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Antivir Ther. 2014;19(6):569-77. doi: 10.3851/IMP2736. Epub 2014 Jan 23.

Effectiveness of efavirenz compared with ritonavir-boosted protease-inhibitor-based regimens as initial therapy for patients with plasma HIV-1 RNA above 100,000 copies/ml.

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  • 1HIV Unit, Department of Infectious Diseases, Hospital Universitari de Bellvitge, L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Spain.



There are no clinical trials in which the main objective is to compare the efficacy of efavirenz versus ritonavir-boosted protease inhibitor (PI/r)-based initial antiretroviral therapy (ART) in patients with high plasma HIV-1 RNA levels. This study aims to compare these regimens in this patient population in the setting of routine clinical practice.


This was a multicentre, observational cohort study, including 596 consecutive treatment-naive patients with plasma HIV-1 RNA>100,000 copies/ml initiating efavirenz or PI/r-based ART between 2000 and 2010. The primary effectiveness end point was the percentage of patients with HIV-1 RNA<50 copies/ml at week 48 by intent-to-treat analysis.


Among a total of 596 patients, 57% initiated efavirenz and 43% PI/r-regimens (73% lopinavir and fosamprenavir [62% lopinavir, 11% fosamprenavir]). HIV-1 RNA suppression to <50 copies/ml at week 48 was higher in the efavirenz group (84% versus 74% [difference 10%, 95% CI 3.4%, 16.7%; P=0.002]). The percentage of virological failures was similar (efavirenz 4% versus PI/r 4%; P=0.686), but voluntary discontinuations and toxicity-related treatment changes were higher with PI/r (4% versus 1%; P=0.006 and 11% versus 6%; P=0.069, respectively). However, resistance selection at failure was higher in patients receiving efavirenz (89% versus 50%; P=0.203). Efavirenz was significantly more effective than lopinavir/r or fosamprenavir/r, whereas no significant differences were observed between efavirenz and darunavir/r or atazanavir/r. The high viral suppression in the efavirenz group was also evident in patients with very high viral loads (>500,000 copies/ml) and in those with low CD4(+) T-cell counts.


In routine clinical practice, the effectiveness of initial efavirenz-based regimens was at least similar to or even higher than various PI/r-based regimens in HIV-1-infected patients with plasma HIV-1 RNA>100,000 copies/ml.

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