Tenofovir (TDF) is part of the WHO recommended first-line antiretroviral therapy (ART); however, there are limited data comparing TDF to other nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors in resource-limited-settings. Using a routine workplace and community-based ART cohort in South Africa, we assessed single drug substitution, HIV RNA suppression, CD4 count increase, loss-from-care, and mortality between TDF, stavudine (d4T) 30 mg dose, and zidovudine (AZT).
In a prospective cohort study we included ART naïve patients aged ≥17 years-old who initiated ART containing TDF, d4T, or AZT between 2007 and 2009. For analysis of single drug substitutions we used a competing-risks time-to-event analysis; for loss-from-care, mixed-effect Poisson modeling; for HIV RNA suppression, competing-risks logistic regression; for CD4 count slope, mixed-effects linear regression; and for mortality, proportional hazards modeling.
Of 6,196 patients, the initial drug was TDF for 665 (11%), d4T for 4,179 (68%), and AZT for 1,352 (22%). During the first 6 months of ART, the adjusted hazard ratio for a single drug substitution was 2.3 for d4T (95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.27, 19) and 5.2 for AZT (95% CI: 1.1, 23), compared to TDF; whereas, after 6 months, it was 10 (95% CI: 5.8, 18) and 4.4 (95% CI: 2.5, 7.8) for d4T and AZT, respectively. Virologic suppression was similar by agent; however, CD4 count rise was lowest for AZT. The adjusted hazard ratio for loss-from-care, when compared to TDF, was 1.5 (95% CI: 1.1, 1.9) for d4T and 1.2 (95% CI: 1.1, 1.4) for AZT. The adjusted hazard ratio for mortality, when compared to TDF, was 2.7 (95% CI: 2.0, 3.5) and 1.4 (95% CI: 1.3, 1.5) and for d4T and AZT, respectively.
In routine care, TDF appeared to perform better than either d4T or AZT, most notably with less drug substitution and mortality than for either other agent.