Does efavirenz replacement improve neurological function in treated HIV infection?

November 2, 2017

Authors: B Payne, T J Chadwick, A Blamire, K N Anderson, J Parikh, J Qian, A M Hynes, J Wilkinson, D A Price, Efficacy of Switch to Lopinavir/Ritonavir in Improving Cognitive Function in Efavirenz-treated Patients (SLICE) study team

Journal: HIV Medicine

DOI: 10.1111/hiv.12503

Year Published: 2017


The contribution of specific antiretroviral drugs to cognitive function in HIV-infected people remains poorly understood. Efavirenz (EFV) may plausibly cause cognitive impairment. The objective of this study was therefore to determine whether chronic EFV therapy is a modifier of neurocognitive and neurometabolic function in the setting of suppressive highly active antiretroviral therapy.


We performed an open-label phase IV controlled trial. Adult subjects who were stable on suppressive EFV therapy for at least 6 months were switched to ritonavir-boosted lopinavir (LPV/r) with no change in the nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI) backbone. The following parameters were assessed before and 10 weeks after therapy switch: cognitive function (by CogState® computerized battery); brain metabolites (by proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy); brain activity [by attentional processing task-based functional magnetic resonance imaging]; and sleep quantity and quality [by sleep diary, Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) and Epworth Sleepiness Scale].


Sixteen subjects completed the study. Despite most subjects (81%) self-reporting memory problems at baseline, cognitive function, brain metabolites, and brain activity showed no change at 10 weeks after switch. Sleep quality improved on switch off EFV [mean PSQI (standard deviation): EFV, 8.5 (6.5); LPV/r, 5.8 (5.5); mean difference -0.4; 95% confidence interval -6.0 to -0.7].


This is the first study to assess the effects of chronic EFV therapy on neurological function in a controlled setting. We conclude that EFV withdrawal is unlikely to result in significant modification of neurocognitive function in otherwise stable HIV-infected people.

© 2017 The Authors HIV Medicine published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British HIV Association.

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