Authors : Gopalan BP, Mehta K, D'souza RR, Rajnala N, A K HK, Ramachandran G, Shet A
Publication Year : 2017
Nevirapine, a component of antiretroviral therapy (ART) in resource-limited settings, known for auto-induction of metabolism, is initiated at half therapeutic dose until day 14 ('lead-in period'), and subsequently escalated to full dose. However, studies have shown that this dosing strategy based on adult studies may not be appropriate in children, given that younger children have higher drug clearance rates. In this prospective cohort study, we studied trough plasma nevirapine levels by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) at days 7, 14 (lead-in period) and 28 (full dose period) after ART initiation amongst HIV-1 infected children initiating nevirapine-based ART in southern India. Among the 20 children (50% male, median age 9 years) included in the study, sub-therapeutic trough plasma nevirapine concentration (less than 4 µg/ml) was seen in 65% (13/20) of children during the lead-in period within two weeks of ART initiation and among 10% of children at 4 weeks during full-dose nevirapine. Adherence was documented as greater than or equal to 95% in all children by both caregiver self-report and pill count. Median nevirapine concentrations achieved at week 1 was 4.8 µg/ml, significantly lower than 8 µg/ml, the concentration achieved at week 4 (p = 0.034). Virological failure at one year of ART was observed in six children, and was not associated with median nevirapine concentration achieved during week 1, 2 or 4. We conclude that the dose escalation strategy currently practiced among young children living with HIV-1 resulted in significant subtherapeutic nevirapine concentration (less than or equal to 4 µg/ml) during the lead-in period. We call for a closer look at pediatric-focused dosing strategies for nevirapine initiation in young children. Further studies to establish age-appropriate threshold nevirapine concentration are warranted in young children to corroborate the role of therapeutic drug monitoring in predicting virological outcome.