BACKGROUND: In previous studies in virologically suppressed patients, protease inhibitor monotherapy has shown trends for more low-level elevations in HIV-1 RNA compared with triple therapy, but no increase in the risk of drug resistance.
METHODS: A total of 273 patients with HIV-1 RNA less than 50 copies/ml on first-line antiretrovirals switched to darunavir/ritonavir (DRV/r) 800/100 mg once daily, either as monotherapy (n = 137) or as triple therapy with two nucleoside analogues (n = 136). Treatment failure was defined as HIV-1 RNA levels 50 copies/ml or above, or discontinuation of study treatment by week 48 (FDA Snapshot algorithm).
RESULTS: Patients were 83% male and 88% white, with mean age 42 years. In the primary efficacy analysis, HIV-1 RNA less than 50 copies/ml by week 48 [intention-to-treat (ITT)] was 118 of 137 (86%) in the DRV/r monotherapy arm versus 129 of 136 (95%) in the triple therapy arm (difference = -8.7%, 95% confidence interval -15.50, -1.80). In a post-hoc analysis, for patients with nadir CD4 cell count 200 cells/μl or above, rates of HIV-1 RNA suppression were 91 of 96 (95%) in the DRV/r monotherapy arm and 100 of 106 (94%) in the triple therapy arm. There was no difference in neurocognitive function or the risk of neuropsychiatric adverse events between DRV/r monotherapy and triple therapy. Two patients in the monotherapy arm with CD4 nadir less than 200 cells/μl developed viraemia in both cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) and plasma, with one symptomatic case.
CONCLUSIONS: In this study for patients with HIV-1 RNA less than 50 copies/ml at baseline, switching to DRV/r monotherapy showed lower efficacy versus triple therapy at week 48 in the primary ITT switch equals failure analysis, with two cases of viraemia in the CSF in the protease inhibitor monotherapy arm.
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