The relation between efavirenz versus nevirapine and virologic failure in Johannesburg, South Africa
Introduction: Previous research has raised concerns that patients given nevirapine (NVP)-based regimens experience more virologic failure than patients given efavirenz (EFV)-based regimens. We investigated this hypothesis in a cohort of HIV-positive patients at a large HIV treatment clinic in South Africa. Methods: All antiretroviral therapy (ART)-naïve non-pregnant patients, ≥18 years old, without tuberculosis, who initiated treatment with either NVP or EFV from April 2004 to August 2011 at the Themba Lethu Clinic in Johannesburg, South Africa, were included. Log-binomial regression and modified Poisson regression were used to estimate risk ratios (RR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI) for predictors of virologic failure, virologic suppression, and loss to follow-up (LTF), whereas a Cox proportional hazards model was used to estimate the risk of death, all within one year. Results: Of 12,840 included patients, 62.0% were female and the median baseline CD4 count was 98 cells/mm3 (36–169). Of these patients, 93.2% initiated an EFV-based regimen. After adjusting for baseline characteristics, no difference in death (adjusted Hazards Ratio (aHR): 0.92; 95% CI: 0.68–1.25), LTF (adjusted Risk Ratio (aRR): 1.00; 95% CI: 0.79–1.25), nor suppression (aRR: 0.98; 95% CI: 0.95–1.00) at one year was found between regimens. Among patients with ≥1 viral load ≥4 months after ART initiation, 4% (n=350) experienced virologic failure within 12 months of initiation. Patients initiating NVP-based regimens were 60% more likely to fail than patients initiating EFV-based regimens (aRR: 1.58; 95% CI: 1.13–2.22). Conclusions: In this cohort, patients initiating NVP-based regimens experienced more virologic failure than patients initiating EFV-based regimens. Future guidelines should consider the implications of different efficacy profiles when making recommendations for which drugs to prioritize.