Penta HIV Trials


Jun, 2019

Highly active antiretroviral therapy started in infants under 3 months of age: 72-week follow-up for CD4 cell count, viral load and drug resistance outcome


Authors: Aboulker JP, Babiker A, Chaix ML, et al; Paediatric European Network for Treatment of AIDS.

Published in: AIDS. 2004.23;18(2):237-45

Objective To assess the feasibility and impact of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) started in vertically HIV-1-infected infants less than 3 months of age.
Methods Adverse events, plasma HIV-1 RNA, CD4 cell counts, CD4 cell percentage (CD4%) and clinical progression were recorded at baseline and prospectively to 72 weeks in order to assess the toxicity, tolerability and efficacy of a combination of stavudine, didanosine and nelfinavir. Selection of genotypic resistance was also investigated.
Results Twenty infants, of whom only three had Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stage B, initiated HAART at median age 2.5 months (range, 0.9-4.7) with median HIV-1 RNA concentration 5.5 log10 copies/ml (range, 3.2-6.8) and CD4% 33% (range, 11-66). Median follow-up was 96 weeks (range, 60-144). At week 72, 11 infants were still taking the original treatment. Few adverse events were reported related to treatment, all minor and causing treatment interruption in only three infants. No AIDS-defining events occurred; one child died of non-HIV-related causes (prematurity). All but two had CD4% > 25% at 72 weeks; however, 14 infants had virological failure and six acquired resistance mutations.
Conclusions Early treatment with stavudine, didanosine and nelfinavir was well tolerated and associated with good clinical and immunological outcomes at week 72. However, a high rate of virological failure with emergence of genotypic resistance is of great concern. More palatable drug combinations for infants and closer drug monitoring are required.


Jun, 2019

Neurocognitive and Quality of Life Outcomes in Children after Planned Treatment Interruptions: the randomized PENTA 11 trial


Authors: T.Ramos J, Melvin D, Medin G, Compagnucci A, Bleier J, Boscolo V, Barclay L, de Ory S, Giaquinto C, Gibb D: on behalf of the PENTA Steering Committee

Published: 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections March 5th – 8th, 2012 – Seattle. Poster 963




Mar, 2019

Economic evaluation of weekends-off antiretroviral therapy for young people in 11 countries


Authors: Tierrablanca LE, Ochalek J, Ford D, et al; for BREATHER (PENTA 16) Trial Group

Published in: Medicine (Baltimore). 2018;97(5):e9698

Objectives To analyze the cost effectiveness of short-cycle therapy (SCT), where patients take antiretroviral (ARV) drugs 5 consecutive days a week and have 2 days off, as an alternative to continuous ARV therapy for young people infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and taking efavirenz-based first-line ARV drugs.

Methods We conduct a hierarchical cost-effectiveness analysis based on data on clinical outcomes and resource use from the BREATHER trial. BREATHER is a randomized trial investigating the effectiveness of SCT and continuous therapy in 199 participants aged 8 to 24 years and taking efavirenz-based first-line ARV drugs in 11 countries worldwide. Alongside nationally representative unit costs/prices, these data were used to estimate costs and quality adjusted life years (QALYs). An incremental cost-effectiveness comparison was performed using a multilevel bivariate regression approach for total costs and QALYs. Further analyses explored cost-effectiveness in low- and middle-income countries with access to low-cost generic ARV drugs and high-income countries purchasing branded ARV drugs, respectively.

Results At 48 weeks, SCT offered significant total cost savings over continuous therapy of US dollar (USD) 41 per patient in countries using generic drugs and USD 4346 per patient in countries using branded ARV drugs, while accruing nonsignificant total health benefits of 0.008 and 0.009 QALYs, respectively. Cost-effectiveness estimates were similar across settings with access to generic ARV drugs but showed significant variation among high-income countries where branded ARV drugs are purchased.

Conclusion SCT is a cost-effective treatment alternative to continuous therapy for young people infected with HIV in countries where viral load monitoring is available.



Mar, 2019

Weekends-off efavirenz -based antiretroviral therapy in HIV infected children, adolescents and young adults (BREATHER): extended follow-up results of a randomised, open-label, non-inferiority trial


Authors: Turkova A, Moore CL, Butler K, et al. for BREATHER (PENTA 16) Trial Group.

Published in: PLos One. 2018;13(4):e0196239.

Background Weekends off antiretroviral therapy (ART) may help engage HIV-1-infected young people facing lifelong treatment. BREATHER showed short cycle therapy (SCT; 5 days on, 2 days off ART) was non-inferior to continuous therapy (CT) over 48 weeks. Planned follow-up was extended to 144 weeks, maintaining original randomisation.

Methods BREATHER was an open-label, non-inferiority trial. Participants aged 8-24yrs with virologi- cal suppression on efavirenz-based first-line ART were randomised 1:1, stratified by age and African/non-African sites, to remain on CT or change to SCT. The Kaplan-Meier method was used to estimate the proportion of participants with viral rebound (confirmed VL?50 copies/mL) under intent-to-treat at 48 weeks (primary outcome), and in extended follow-up at 96, 144, and 192 weeks. SCT participants returned to CT following viral rebound, 3 VL blips or discontinuation of efavirenz.

Findings Of 199 participants (99 SCT, 100 CT), 97 per arm consented to extended follow-up. Median follow-up was 185.3 weeks (IQR 160.9–216.1). 69 (70%) SCT participants remained on SCT at last follow-up. 105 (53%) were male, baseline median age 14 years (IQR 12–18), median CD4 count 735 cells/μL (IQR 576–968). 16 SCT and 16 CT participants had con- firmed VL?50 copies/mL by the end of extended follow-up (HR 1.00, 95% CI 0.50–2.00). Estimated difference in percentage with viral rebound (SCT minus CT) by week 144 was 1.9% (90% CI -6.6–10.4; p = 0.72) and was similar in a per-protocol analysis. There were no significant differences between arms in proportions of participants with grade 3/4 adverse events (18 SCT vs 16 CT participants; p = 0.71) or ART-related adverse events (10 vs 12;

p = 0.82). 20 versus 8 serious adverse events (SAEs) were reported in 16 SCT versus 4 CT participants, respectively (p = 0.005 comparing proportions between groups; incidence rate ratio 2.49, 95%CI 0.71–8.66, p = 0.15). 75% of SAEs (15 SCT, 6 CT) were hospitalisations for a wide range of conditions. 3 SCT and 6 CT participants switched to second-line ART fol- lowing viral failure (p = 0.50).

Conclusions Sustainable non-inferiority of virological suppression in young people was shown for SCT versus CT over median 3.6 years. Standard-dose efavirenz-based SCT is a viable option for virologically suppressed HIV-1 infected young people on first-line ART with 3-monthly VL monitoring.



Dec, 2017

“How Do We Start? And How Will They React?” Disclosing to Young People with Perinatally Acquired HIV in Uganda


Authors: Namukwaya S, Paparini S, Seeley J, Bernays S.

Published in: Front Public Health. 2017;5:343.

Abstract: Despite great advances in pediatric HIV care, rates and the extent of full disclosure of HIV status to infected children remain low especially in resource-constrained setting. The World Health Organisation recommends that, by the age of 10-12 years old, children should be made fully aware of their HIV-positive status. However, this awareness is often delayed until much later in their adolescence. Few studies have been conducted to investigate what influences caregivers’ decision-making process in this regard in low-income settings. In this article, we present an analysis of care dyads of caregivers and HIV-positive young people in Kampala, Uganda, as part of the findings of a longitudinal qualitative study about young people’s adherence to antiretroviral therapy embedded in an international clinical trial (BREATHER). Repeat in-depth interviews were conducted with 26 young people living with HIV throughout the course of the trial, and once-off interviews with 16 of their caregivers were also carried out toward the end of the trial. In this article, we examine why and how caregivers decide to disclose a young person’s HIV status to them and explore their feelings and dilemmas toward disclosure, as well as how young people reacted and the influence it had on their relationships with and attitudes toward their caregivers. Caregivers feared the consequences of disclosing the young person’s positive status to them and disclosure commonly occurred hurriedly in response to a crisis, rather than as part of an anticipated and planned process. A key impediment to disclosure was that caregivers feared that disclosing would damage their relationships with the young people and commonly used this as a reason to continue to postpone disclosure. However, young people did not report prolonged feelings of blame or anger toward their caregivers about their own infection, but they did express frustration at the delay and obfuscation surrounding the disclosure process. Our findings can inform the ways in which mainstream HIV services support caregivers through the disclosure process. This includes providing positive encouragement to disclose fully and to be more confident in initiating and sustaining the timely process of disclosure.



Jul, 2017

“Not Taking it Will Just be Like a Sin”: Young People Living with HIV and the Stigmatization of Less-Than-Perfect Adherence to Antiretroviral Therapy


Authors: Bernays S, Paparini S, Seeley J, Rhodes T.

Published in: Med Anthropol. 2017;36(5):485-499.

Abstract: Global health priorities are being set to address questions on adherence to HIV antiretroviral therapy in adolescence. Few studies have explored young people’s perspectives on the complex host of social and relational challenges they face in dealing with their treatment in secret and their condition in silence. In redressing this, we present findings from a longitudinal qualitative study with young people living with HIV in the UK, Ireland, US, and Uganda, embedded within the BREATHER international clinical trial. Drawing from Goffman’s notion of stigma, we analyze relational dynamics in HIV clinics, as rare spaces where HIV is “known,” and how young people’s relationships may be threatened by non-adherence to treatment. Young people’s reflections on and strategies for maintaining their reputation as patients raise questions about particular forms of medicalization of HIV and the moralization of treatment adherence that affect them, and how these may restrict opportunities for care across the epidemic.



Dec, 2016

Qualitative study of the BREATHER trial (Short Cycle antiretroviral therapy): is it acceptable to young people living with HIV?


Authors: Bernays S, Paparini S, Seeley J, Namukwaya Kihika S, Gibb D, Rhodes T.

Published inBMJ Open. 2017;7(2):e012934

Objectives A qualitative study of the BREATHER (PENTA 16) randomised clinical trial, which compared virological control of Short Cycle Therapy (SCT) (5 days on: 2 days off) with continuous efavirenz (EFV)-based antiretroviral therapy (CT) in children and young people (aged 8–24) living with HIV with viral load <50 c/mL to examine adaptation, acceptability and experience of SCT to inform intervention development.

Setting Paediatric HIV clinics in the UK (2), Ireland (1), the USA (1) and Uganda (1).

Participants All BREATHER trial participants who were over the age of 10 and aware of their HIV diagnosis were invited to participate. 49 young people from both arms of the BREATHER trial (31 females and 18 males; 40% of the total trial population in the respective sites; age range 11–24) gave additional consent to participate in the qualitative study.

Results Young people from both trial arms had initial concerns about the impact of SCT on their health and adherence, but these decreased over the early months in the trial. Young people randomised to SCT reported preference for SCT compared with CT pre-trial. Attitudes to SCT did not vary greatly by gender or country. Once short-term adaptation challenges were overcome, SCT was positively described as reducing impact of side effects, easing the pressure to carry and remember medication and enabling more weekend social activities. Young people on both arms reported frequent medication side effects and occasional missed doses that they had rarely voiced to clinical staff. Participants liked SCT by trial end but were concerned that peers who had most problems adhering could find SCT disruptive and difficult to manage.

Conclusions To realise the potential of SCT (and mitigate possible risks of longer interruptions), careful dissemination and communication post-trial is needed. SCT should be provided alongside a package of monitoring, support and education over 3 months to allow adaptation.



Jun, 2016

BREATHER (PENTA 16) short-cycle therapy (SCT) (5 days on/2 days off) in young people with chronic human immunodeficiency virus infection: an open, randomised, parallel-group Phase II/III trial


Author: Butler K, Inshaw J, Ford D, et al.

Published in:  Health Technol Assess. 2016;20(49):1-108.

Background For human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected adolescents facing lifelong antiretroviral therapy (ART), short-cycle therapy (SCT) with long-acting agents offers the potential for drug-free weekends, less toxicity, better adherence and cost savings.

Objectives To determine whether or not efavirenz (EFV)-based ART in short cycles of 5 days on and 2 days off is as efficacious (in maintaining virological suppression) as continuous EFV-based ART (continuous therapy; CT). Secondary objectives included the occurrence of new clinical HIV events or death, changes in immunological status, emergence of HIV drug resistance, drug toxicity and changes in therapy.

Design Open, randomised, non-inferiority trial.

Setting Europe, Thailand, Uganda, Argentina and the USA.

Participants Young people (aged 8–24 years) on EFV plus two nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors and with a HIV-1 ribonucleic acid level [viral load (VL)] of < 50 copies/ml for > 12 months.

Interventions Young people were randomised to continue daily ART (CT) or change to SCT (5 days on, 2 days off ART).

Main outcome measures Follow-up was for a minimum of 48 weeks (0, 4 and 12 weeks and then 12-weekly visits). The primary outcome was the difference between arms in the proportion with VL > 50 copies/ml (confirmed) by 48 weeks, estimated using the Kaplan–Meier method (12% non-inferiority margin) adjusted for region and age.

Results In total, 199 young people (11 countries) were randomised (n = 99 SCT group, n = 100 CT group) and followed for a median of 86 weeks. Overall, 53% were male; the median age was 14 years (21% ≥ 18 years); 13% were from the UK, 56% were black, 19% were Asian and 21% were Caucasian; and the median CD4% and CD4 count were 34% and 735 cells/mm3, respectively. By week 48, only one participant (CT) was lost to follow-up. The SCT arm had a 27% decreased drug exposure as measured by the adherence questionnaire and a MEMSCap Medication Event Monitoring System (MEMSCap Inc., Durham, NC, USA) substudy (median cap openings per week: SCT group, n = 5; CT group, n = 7). By 48 weeks, six participants in the SCT group and seven in the CT group had a confirmed VL > 50 copies/ml [difference –1.2%, 90% confidence interval (CI) –7.3% to 4.9%] and two in the SCT group and four in the CT group had a confirmed VL > 400 copies/ml (difference –2.1%, 90% CI –6.2% to 1.9%). All six participants in the SCT group with a VL > 50 copies/ml resumed daily ART, of whom five were resuppressed, three were on the same regimen and two with a switch; two others on SCT resumed daily ART for other reasons. Overall, three participants in the SCT group and nine in the CT group (p = 0.1) changed ART regimen, five because of toxicity, four for simplification reasons, two because of compliance issues and one because of VL failure. Seven young people (SCT group, n = 2; CT group, n = 5) had major non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor mutations at VL failure, of whom two (n = 1 SCT group, n = 1 CT group) had the M184V mutation. Two young people had new Centers for Disease Control B events (SCT group, n = 1; CT group, n = 1). There were no significant differences between SCT and CT in grade 3/4 adverse events (13 vs. 14) or in serious adverse events (7 vs. 6); there were fewer ART-related adverse events in the SCT arm (2 vs. 14; p = 0.02). At week 48 there was no evidence that SCT led to increased inflammation using an extensive panel of markers. Young people expressed a strong preference for SCT in a qualitative substudy and in pre- and post-trial questionnaires. In total, 98% of the young people are taking part in a 2-year follow-up extension of the trial.

Conclusions Non-inferiority of VL suppression in young people on EFV-based first-line ART with a VL of < 50 copies/ml was demonstrated for SCT compared with CT, with similar resistance, safety and inflammatory marker profiles. The SCT group had fewer ART-related adverse events. Further evaluation of the immunological and virological impact of SCT is ongoing. A limitation of the trial is that the results cannot be generalised to settings where VL monitoring is either not available or infrequent, nor to use of low-dose EFV. Two-year extended follow-up of the trial is ongoing to confirm the durability of the SCT strategy. Further trials of SCT in settings with infrequent VL monitoring and with other antiretroviral drugs such as tenofovir alafenamide, which has a long intracellular half-life, and/or dolutegravir, which has a higher barrier to resistance, are planned.



Jun, 2016

Weekends-off efavirenz-based antiretroviral therapy in HIV-infected children, adolescents, and young adults (BREATHER): a randomised, open-label, non-inferiority, phase 2/3 trial


Author: The BREATHER (PENTA 16) Trial Group

Published inLancet HIV. 2016;3(9):e421-430

Background For HIV-1-infected young people facing lifelong antiretroviral therapy (ART), short cycle therapy with long-acting drugs offers potential for drug-free weekends, less toxicity, and better quality-of-life. We aimed to compare short cycle therapy (5 days on, 2 days off ART) versus continuous therapy (continuous ART).

Methods In this open-label, non-inferiority trial (BREATHER), eligible participants were aged 8–24 years, were stable on first-line efavirenz with two nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, and had HIV-1 RNA viral load less than 50 copies per mL for 12 months or longer. Patients were randomly assigned (1:1) to remain on continuous therapy or change to short cycle therapy according to a computer-generated randomisation list, with permuted blocks of varying size, stratified by age and African versus non-African sites; the list was prepared by the trial statistician and randomisation was done via a web service accessed by site clinician or one of the three coordinating trials units. The primary outcome was the proportion of participants with confirmed viral load 50 copies per mL or higher at any time up to the 48 week assessment, estimated with the Kaplan-Meier method. The trial was powered to exclude a non-inferiority margin of 12%. Analyses were intention to treat. The trial was registered with EudraCT, number 2009-012947-40, ISRCTN, number 97755073, and CTA, number 27505/0005/001-0001.

Findings Between April 1, 2011, and June 28, 2013, 199 participants from 11 countries worldwide were randomly assigned, 99 to the short cycle therapy and 100 to continuous therapy, and were followed up until the last patient reached 48 weeks. 105 (53%) were men, median age was 14 years (IQR 12–18), and median CD4 cell count was 735 cells per μL (IQR 576–968). Six (6%) patients assigned to the short cycle therapy versus seven (7%) assigned to continuous therapy had confirmed viral load 50 copies per mL or higher (difference −1·2%, 90% CI −7·3 to 4·9, non-inferiority shown). 13 grade 3 or 4 events occurred in the short cycle therapy group and 14 in the continuous therapy group (p=0·89). Two ART-related adverse events (one gynaecomastia and one spontaneous abortion) occurred in the short cycle therapy group compared with 14 (p=0·02) in the continuous therapy group (five lipodystrophy, two gynaecomastia, one suicidal ideation, one dizziness, one headache and syncope, one spontaneous abortion, one neutropenia, and two raised transaminases).

Interpretation Non-inferiority of maintaining virological suppression in children, adolescents, and young adults was shown for short cycle therapy versus continous therapy at 48 weeks, with similar resistance and a better safety profile. This short cycle therapy strategy is a viable option for adherent HIV-infected young people who are stable on efavirenz-based ART.



Apr, 2016

Neurocognition and quality of life after reinitiating antiretroviral therapy in children randomized to planned treatment interruption


Authors: Ananworanich J, Melvin D, Ramos Amador JT, et al; on behalf of the PENTA 11 study group.

Published in: AIDS. 2016;30(7):1075-81.

Objective Understanding the effects of antiretroviral treatment (ART) interruption on neurocognition and quality of life (QoL) are important for managing unplanned interruptions and planned interruptions in HIV cure research.

Design Children previously randomized to continuous (continuous ART, n = 41) vs. planned treatment interruption (PTI, n = 47) in the Pediatric European Network for Treatment of AIDS (PENTA) 11 study were enrolled. At study end, PTI children resumed ART. At 1 and 2 years following study end, children were assessed by the coding, symbol search and digit span subtests of Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (6–16 years old) or Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (≥17 years old) and by Pediatrics QoL questionnaires for physical and psychological QoL. Transformed scaled scores for neurocognition and mean standardized scores for QoL were compared between arms by t-test and Mann–Whitney U test, respectively. Scores indicating clinical concern were compared (<7 for neurocognition and <70 for QoL tests).

Results Characteristics were similar between arms with a median age of 12.6 years, CD4+ of 830 cells/μl and HIV RNA of 1.7 log10copies/ml. The median cumulative ART exposure was 9.6 in continuous ART vs. 7.7 years in PTI (P = 0.02). PTI children had a median of 12 months off ART and had resumed ART for 25.2 months at time of first assessment. Neurocognitive scores were similar between arms for all tests. Physical and psychological QoL scores were no different. About 40% had low neurocognitive and QoL scores indicating clinical concern.

Conclusion No differences in information processing speed, sustained attention, short-term memory and QoL functioning were observed between children previously randomized to continuous ART vs. PTI in the PENTA 11 trial.