Jonathan M. Schapiro, MD; Mark A. Winters, MSc; Fran Stewart, PhD; Bradley Efron, PhD; Jane Norris, PAC; Michael J. Kozal, MD; Thomas C. Merigan, MD
Schapiro JM, Winters MA, Stewart F, Efron B, Norris J, Kozal MJ, et al. The Effect of High-Dose Saquinavir on Viral Load and CD4+ T-Cell Counts in HIV-Infected Patients. Ann Intern Med. 1996;124:1039-1050. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-124-12-199606150-00003
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Published: Ann Intern Med. 1996;124(12):1039-1050.
To evaluate the efficacy and safety of high-dose therapy with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) protease inhibitor saquinavir and to establish the duration of the effect of this therapy.
Clinical research referral center.
40 adults with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection and CD4+ T-cell counts of 200 to 500 cells/mm3.
Monotherapy with 3600 mg or 7200 mg of saquinavir per day, in six divided doses, for 24 weeks.
Patients were monitored for adverse events and were evaluated monthly for CD4+ T-cell count, HIV-1 viral load (as measured by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction [PCR] for plasma HIV RNA levels), immune-complex-disassociated p24 antigen levels, peripheral blood mononuclear cell viral DNA levels (as measured by PCR), and resistance mutations to saquinavir. Quantitative peripheral blood mononuclear cell cultures were also done every 2 months.
The low-dose saquinavir regimen (3600 mg/d) resulted in a maximal mean decrease in plasma HIV RNA levels of 1.06 log RNA copies/mL of plasma and a mean maximal increase in CD4 counts of 72 cells/mm3. At week 24, the plasma HIV RNA level remained 0.48 log RNA copies/mL of plasma lower than baseline (P < 0.001) and the CD4 count remained 31 cells/mm3 higher than baseline (P = 0.165). The high-dose saquinavir regimen (7200 mg/d) produced a mean maximal decrease in the plasma HIV RNA level of 1.34 log RNA copies/mL of plasma and a mean maximal increase in CD4 count of 121 cells/mm3. At week 24, the plasma HIV RNA level remained 0.85 log RNA copies/mL of plasma lower than baseline (P < 0.001) and the CD4 count remained 82 cells/mm3 higher than baseline (P = 0.002). The high-dose regimen produced a greater reduction in plasma HIV RNA level (P = 0.08), a greater reduction in peripheral blood mononuclear cell cultures (P = 0.008), and a greater increase in CD4 count (P = 0.002) than did the low-dose regimen. Higher plasma drug concentrations in individual patients correlated with greater reductions in plasma HIV RNA levels over the two doses. Nine patients receiving the low-dose regimen and four patients receiving the high-dose regimen developed key saquinavir resistance mutations. Adverse reactions, most commonly gastrointestinal problems and elevated serum aminotransferase levels, were more common in patients receiving the high-dose regimen, but most adverse events were mild and all were reversible.
Saquinavir is a potent antiviral agent that has a favorable toxicity profile at high doses. Higher doses produce a greater and more durable suppression of viral load and elevation in CD4+ T-cell counts and may delay the development of resistance mutations. Therapy with high-dose saquinavir alone or in combination with other antiretroviral agents should be investigated further.
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Infectious Disease, HIV.
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