Multimonth dispensing (MMD) of antiretroviral treatment (ART) aims to reduce patient-related barriers to access long-term treatment and improve health system efficiency. However, randomized evidence of its clinical effectiveness is lacking. We compared MMD within community ART refill groups (CARGs) vs. standard-of-care facility-based ART delivery in Zimbabwe.
A three-arm, cluster-randomized, pragmatic noninferiority trial was performed. Thirty health care facilities and associated CARGs were allocated to either ART collected three-monthly at facility (3MF, control); ART delivered three-monthly in CARGs (3MC); or ART delivered six-monthly in CARGs (6MC). Stable adults receiving ART ≥six months with baseline viral load (VL) <1000 copies/ml were eligible. Retention in ART care (primary outcome) and viral suppression (VS) 12 months after enrollment were compared, using regression models specified for clustering (ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT03238846).
4800 participants were recruited, 1919, 1335, and 1546 in arms 3MF, 3MC, and 6MC, respectively. For retention, the prespecified noninferiority limit (-3.25%, risk difference [RD]) was met for comparisons between all arms, 3MC (94.8%) vs. 3MF (93.0%), adjusted RD = 1.1% (95% CI: -0.5% to 2.8%); 6MC (95.5%) vs. 3MF: aRD = 1.2% (95% CI: -1.0% to 3.6%); and 6MC vs. 3MC: aRD = 0.1% (95% CI: -2.4% to 2.6%). VL completion at 12 months was 49%, 45%, and 8% in 3MF, 3MC, and 6MC, respectively. VS in 3MC (99.7%) was high and not different to 3MF (99.1%), relative risk = 1.0 (95% CI: 1.0-1.0). VS was marginally reduced in 6MC (92.9%) vs. 3MF, relative risk = 0.9 (95% CI: 0.9-1.0).
Retention in CARGs receiving three- and six-monthly MMD was noninferior versus standard-of-care facility-based ART delivery. VS in 3MC was high. VS in six-monthly CARGs requires further evaluation.