BACKGROUND. Compliance with complex antiretroviral therapy regimens is a problem for HIV-1–infected children and their families. Simple, safe, and effective regimens are important for long-term therapeutic success.

METHODS. A novel, once-daily dosing regimen of 3 antiretroviral drugs, emtricitabine, didanosine, and efavirenz, was tested in 37 therapy-naive HIV-infected children and adolescents between 3 and 21 years of age (inclusive). Subjects were followed for ≥96 weeks on an intention-to-treat basis. Signs, symptoms, plasma HIV-1 RNA viral load, CD4 counts, and safety laboratories were followed regularly. End points were the proportion of subjects with plasma HIV <400 or 50 HIV copies per mL and safety and tolerability of the regimen.

RESULTS. Thirty-seven subjects enrolled at 16 sites. Two subjects with rashes during the first 2 weeks of therapy were the only adverse events leading to study-drug discontinuation. Other early (before protocol-scheduled conclusion) study discontinuations included 3 viral failures on treatment and 5 patients who stopped therapy for apparently nonmedical reasons. Possible drug-related adverse events included 1 grade 4 low-glucose and 5 varied grade 3 events. There were no deaths. Virologic outcomes demonstrated that 32 (85%) of 37 subjects achieved viral suppression to <400 RNA copies per mL, and 26 (72%) of 37 subjects maintained sustained suppression at <50 copies per mL through week 96. The median baseline CD4 count was 310 per μL (17%), which increased at week 96 by a median of +329 cells per μL (by +18% CD4). Pharmacokinetic results were as predicted for emtricitabine, didanosine, and efavirenz capsules, whereas efavirenz concentrations in children receiving efavirenz oral solution were lower than anticipated, requiring a dose escalation after the planned assessment point.

CONCLUSIONS. A once-daily regimen of emtricitabine, didanosine, and efavirenz proved to be safe and tolerable and demonstrated good immunologic and virologic efficacy in this 2-year study.

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