Alternative HIV Regimens: For Those Unable to Use Efavirenz

The most commonly prescribed HIV therapies includes efavirenz, which is one of the key ingredients in stopping the spread of HIV cells through the body and keeping the immune system functioning and optimal. Efavirenz is never prescribed alone, however in combination with other anti-HIV drugs it has proven to have the greatest overall results in keeping the HIV viral load down and the immune response minimal. Unfortunately, the side effects can prevent some people from taking efavirenz. The adverse effects can include insomnia, nightmares, confusion, memory loss, headaches and depression. Along with these psychiatric disorders, efavirenz has also been known to cause birth defects in children whose mothers used the drug. Because of these consequences, it is highly recommended that anybody who suffers from certain psychiatric conditions, or any woman who believes they are pregnant, or are trying to pregnant, should not take efavirenz. Luckily, for patients who are HIV positive and unable to take efavirenz, there are alternative HIV regimens found to be effective in keeping the virus under control and unable to attack the immune system.

Researchers at the AIDS Clinic Trials Group (ACTG), have conducted a Phase III, randomized study of regimens which do not use efavirenz. They studied three different therapies given to over 1,800 HIV positive adults. The results were uniformly positive. The in-depth study closely followed the participants for 96 weeks. At the end of the study, it was ascertained that all three regimens were effective in keeping the viral loads down and keeping the immune systems healthy. There were variations in how easily patients were able to withstand any negative effects of the drugs while still gaining all of the positive effects. One regimen was clearly superior in this category – the raltegravir-based therapy – but all three were reasonable for lifelong medical regimens. These alternative HIV regimens that are effective in patients not eligible for efavirenz has provided another outlet of hope for first line defense against HIV infection.