Background: Both highly potent antiretroviral drug rescue therapy and treatment interruption have been suggested to be effective in patients with multiple treatment failure.
Objective: To assess both the benefits and risks of an 8-week treatment interruption associated with a six to nine-drug rescue regimen in patients with multiple treatment failures.
Design: A randomized comparative controlled trial in 19 university hospitals in France.
Patients: Sixty-eight HIV-infected patients with multiple previous treatment failures and CD4 cell counts less than 200 × 106 cells/l and plasma HIV-1-RNA levels of 50 000 copies/ml or greater.
Measurements: The primary efficacy outcome was the proportion of patients with at least a 1 log10 decrease (copies/ml) in the plasma HIV-1-RNA level after 12 weeks of therapy.
Results: Treatment interruption followed by multidrug salvage therapy led to a greater proportion of patients achieving virological success (i.e. 1 log10 decrease) at 12 weeks compared with patients receiving multidrug therapy alone (62 versus 26%, intent-to-treat analysis; P = 0.007). The median decrease in the HIV-1-RNA level was −1.91 and −0.37 log10 copies/ml (P = 0.008), respectively. Treatment interruption led to an increase in the number of sensitive drugs of the multidrug regimen (71 versus 35% of regimen with at least two sensitive drugs; P = 0.004). Factors associated with virological success were treatment interruption, the reversion of at least one mutation to wild type, adequate plasma drug concentration, and the use of lopinavir.
Conclusion: Treatment interruption was beneficial for treatment-experienced HIV-infected patients with advanced HIV disease and multidrug-resistant virus.