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.