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MODERN Study Stopped: An NRTI-Sparing, Two-Drug Initial Regimen Disappoints Again

By Paul E. Sax, M.D.

October 14, 2013

In case you didn't know, "MODERN" is the clever name for the "Maraviroc Once-daily with Darunavir Enhanced by Ritonavir in a New regimen" trial, which compared TDF/FTC to maraviroc, both with boosted darunavir.

And once again, the NRTI-sparing two-drug regimen comes up short, this time in a fully powered, double-blind noninferiority study.

From a PDF provided by ViiV's Regional Medical Scientists (the information isn't on the company's website yet), here are some pertinent details:

As noted before, the bar for successful initial therapy these days is set extremely high, with several recent studies demonstrating 85-90% suppression rates at 48 weeks using regimens with low pill burdens and excellent tolerability. 72% just isn't going to cut it.

And for the record, here's a list of NRTI-sparing studies that gave "meh" results at best:

What remains unclear is why these two-drug regimens have been so disappointing. Is two drugs not enough? Or maybe just the two drugs tested to date in these clinical studies? Is there something magic about the NRTIs? Or certain NRTIs? (One vote could be for 3TC or FTC, which have been part of every truly great HIV regimen since the late 1990s.) Do the benefits in bone density for the NRTI-sparing strategies outweigh the lesser virologic activity? (My opinion -- no.)

Regardless, HIV clinicians and researchers eagerly await the result of two completed but not yet presented clinical trials -- the fully-powered NEAT study comparing RAL to TDF/FTC (both with DRV/r), and the GARDEL study, comparing 3TC to NRTI/3TC (both with LPV/r).

Until then, one should be using NRTI-sparing therapies as initial treatment only in highly select circumstances -- and even then, why not include 3TC or FTC?

Paul Sax is Clinical Director of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women's Hospital. His blog HIV and ID Observations is part of Journal Watch, where he is Editor-in-Chief of Journal Watch AIDS Clinical Care.

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