Switching from efavirenz
Nov 18, 2007
Some background: I'm a 26 year old male, positive for almost five years. I was diagnosed during seroconversion & took Kaletra & Combivir for six months. My numbers were then good until early last year, when VL jumped from <10k to >50k and CD4# started to decline from 800 to 450 and CD% declined from mid-30s to high teens.
In August of last year, my doc & I decided to start me on efavirenz & truvada. Although this was perhaps a little earlier than recommended, it's a decision with which I feel very comfortable.
This combination has been very potent; my VL was undetectable within weeks (and has remained so), my CD4# is in the 900s and my CD4% is in the high 30s.
The only problem has been the side effects - incredibly vivid dreams, early morning groginess & tiredeness. I tried taking the meds earlier in the day and that left me feeling almost stoned and very out of it. I've had an efavirenz blood level test which came back at 4,900. Although it works well and the EFV is much more tolerable than the Kaletra, I'm finding the tiredeness is affecting my work & concentration.
I have no probs with adherence & I live in a country with a properly funded public health system.
So, my questions are: 1/ Are the side effects reason enough to change my meds when they're working so well?
2/ Is the EFV level of 4,900 high? If so, can I change to a lower dosage (400 mg) of EFV without losing the potency? If I did, would this help the CNS issues?
3/ What are the alternatives? Would you recommend a switch to nevirapine or reyataz? My doc suggested I would need to be moved onto nevirapine slowly because of my high CD4#.
Many thanks for a wonderful resource. I look forward to your advice & suggestions.
Response from Dr. Pierone
The side effects are significant enough for you to consider changing therapy. The level of 4,900 is a typical trough level of Sustiva and well above the inhibitory concentration need to suppress viral replication. The most logical thing I think would be to reduce Sustiva to 400mg and see if the side effects resolve. The chance of viral rebound would be extremely low with this approach and it has been used successfully.
If this did not work out then a switch to Viramune or Isentress would be reasonable. One could avoid the risk of drug-induced hepatitis by using Isentress which is very well tolerated. A switch to Reyataz would likely work too, but protease inhibitors tend to have more side effects long-term.
Let us know what you decide to do and good luck!
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