IAS 2007: Sydney, Australia; July 22-25

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The Body PRO Covers: The 4th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention

Switching to Thymidine-Sparing Regimens Successful

July 25, 2007

Lipoatrophy and hyperlipidemia in HIV-infected individuals are thought to be preventable toxicities associated with prolonged therapy with thymidine analog nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs). By contrast, the use of thymidine-sparing NRTI backbones is typically associated with fewer instances of lipoatrophy and hyperlipidemia, even over prolonged follow-up.

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Reprinted with permission of Jose M. Gatell, M.D., Ph.D., et al. Click here to download the complete slide presentation.
The most commonly prescribed thymidine-sparing NRTI backbones for initial antiretroviral therapy include two fixed-dose combinations: tenofovir/emtricitabine (TDF/FTC, Truvada) and abacavir/lamivudine (ABC/3TC, Epzicom, Kivexa). Although both of these combinations have demonstrated impressive activity in treatment-naive, HIV-infected patients initiating therapy, no head-to-head comparisons of tenofovir/emtricitabine and abacavir/lamivudine have yet been performed to determine if one combination is superior to the other in terms of effectiveness, safety and tolerability. The Spanish BICOMBO study is a randomized trial designed to do just that.

The BICOMBO study1 evaluated 333 individuals on stable antiretroviral therapy consisting of a lamivudine (3TC, Epivir)-based regimen for at least six months (HIV-1 RNA less than 200 copies/mL). Patients were randomly assigned to switch to either tenofovir/emtricitabine (n = 166) or abacavir/lamivudine (n = 167) while continuing on the third agent in their regimen. Changes in virologic efficacy, CD4+ cell count, safety, and laboratory parameters were reported through 48 weeks of follow-up.

Participants were well matched for baseline characteristics. The median age of patients was 43 years, 77% to 78% were male, and the median CD4+ cell count was 508 to 520 cells/mm3. At baseline, 100 patients were receiving tenofovir (TDF, Viread) + lamivudine, 30 individuals were receiving abacavir (ABC, Ziagen) + lamivudine, 54 individuals were receiving didanosine (ddI, Videx) + lamivudine and 48 individuals were receiving stavudine (d4T, Zerit) + lamivudine. The most common NRTIs included in patients' regimens at baseline were zidovudine/lamivudine (AZT/3TC, Combivir), which was used by 117 individuals.

Thus, 34% of individuals in the tenofovir/emtricitabine arm simply switched lamivudine to emtricitabine, and 7% of individuals in the abacavir/lamivudine arm maintained the same antiretroviral agents and simply modified the formulation.

Treatment failure was defined as:

  • viral rebound above 200 copies/mL,
  • discontinuation of study therapy,
  • loss to follow-up,
  • progression to a new Centers for Disease Control category C event, or
  • death.

By week 48, treatment failure had occurred in 19% of abacavir/lamivudine recipients and 13% of tenofovir/emtricitabine recipients (estimated difference: 5.9%; 95% confidence interval [CI]: -2.0% to 14.0%). This difference was primarily attributed to a higher discontinuation rate in the abacavir/lamivudine group due to suspected abacavir hypersensitivity reactions (HSR).

The upper limit of the 95% CI for the difference in treatment failure rate between the abacavir/lamivudine and tenofovir/emtricitabine arms exceeded the predefined cutoff of 12.5%, thus indicating that abacavir/lamivudine is inferior to tenofovir/emtricitabine with regard to the prevention of treatment failure.

Although viral rebound above 200 copies/mL was observed in four individuals in the abacavir/lamivudine group (2.4%) but was not observed in any individuals in the tenofovir/emtricitabine group (0%), abacavir/lamivudine did meet the noninferiority criteria for virologic efficacy compared with tenofovir/emtricitabine based on the virologic failure rates between the two arms (estimated difference: 2.4%; 95% CI: 0.05% to 6.0%).

Changes in CD4+ cell count were +44 and -3 cells/mm3 for the abacavir/lamivudine and tenofovir/emtricitabine arms, respectively (P = .03).

Changes in lipid parameters from baseline to week 48 are summarized in the table below. Interestingly, significantly greater declines in all lipid parameters, including high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, were observed with a switch to tenofovir/emtricitabine relative to abacavir/lamivudine. However, these changes were modest in nature.

Lipid ParameterABC/3TCTDF/FTCP Value
nMedian Change, mg/dL (IQR)nMedian Change, mg/dL (IQR)
Triglycerides1170 (-34 to 28)124-16 (-63 to 9).01
Total cholesterol12012 (-6 to 26)126-9 (-31 to 6).001
LDL cholesterol1047 (-6 to 24)106-4 (-25 to 8)< .0001
HDL cholesterol1140 (-4 to 8)118-4 (-9 to 2)< .0001

IQR = interquartile range; LDL = low-density lipoprotein.

Click to enlarge
Reprinted with permission of Jose M. Gatell, M.D., Ph.D., et al. Click here to download the complete slide presentation.
In a sub-study of 47 individuals who underwent dual energy X-ray absorptiometry scanning at baseline and week 48, the abacavir/lamivudine and tenofovir/emtricitabine treatment arms showed no significant differences in the observed changes in total fat (449 and 80 g), limb fat (132 and 164 g), and bone mineral density (0.0009 and -0.0061 mg/mL). Similarly, no differences were observed between the respective arms for changes in serum creatinine (-0.03 and -0.02 mg/dL) or estimated glomerular filtration rate (1.3 and -0.5 mL/minute) between baseline and week 48.

These data indicate that switching patients to a thymidine-sparing, fixed-dose combination of NRTIs is feasible and associated with no unexpected adverse events, including those affecting renal function and bone mineral density. Moreover, switching to either tenofovir/emtricitabine or abacavir/lamivudine may lead to increases in limb fat, while switching to tenofovir/emtricitabine as opposed to abacavir/lamivudine may lead to improved lipid profiles.


  1. Martinez E, Arranz JA, Podzamczer D, et al. Efficacy and safety of NRTI's switch to tenofovir plus emtricitabine (Truvada®) vs. abacavir plus lamivudine (Kivexa®) in patients with virologic suppression receiving a lamivudine containing HAART: the BICOMBO study. In: Program and abstracts of the 4th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention; July 22-25, 2007; Sydney, Australia. Abstract WESS102.
    View slides: Download PowerPoint

This article was provided by TheBodyPRO. It is a part of the publication 4th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention.

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