Drug Safety

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 299–321 | Cite as

A Risk-Benefit Assessment of HIV Protease Inhibitors

  • Graeme J. Moyle
  • Brian G. Gazzard
Review Article


The use of triple therapy regimens, often called highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), generally involving 2 nucleoside analogues and an HIV protease inhibitor, have been endorsed as the standard of care for persons with HIV initiating therapy by a number of sets of international guidelines. The widespread availability of protease inhibitor-containing regimens has been associated with a dramatic drop in the incidence of new AIDS events and mortality throughout the developed world. Use of HAART regimens, particularly in treatment-naïve individuals, is also associated with dramatic reductions in HIV RNA load, rises in CD4+ cell numbers and improvements in some aspects of immune function.

However, protease inhibitor therapy is associated with a range of adverse effects, which varies between agents, and regimens frequently involve inconvenient administration schedules and disruption to patient’s lives. Thus, the undoubted benefits of antiretroviral therapy come at some cost in terms of both physical and psychological morbidity to the recipient. In assessing an individual for therapy, consideration of the risk of disease events and the benefit of therapy in reducing or preventing these events must be weighed against the potential of therapy to cause morbidity.

Using these criteria, we suggest that an individual with a 3 year risk of disease progression of less than 10% (based on CD4+ cell count and HIV RNA load) is more likely to a experience a morbidity if treated with HAART than if left untreated and monitored. For individuals with higher risks of HIV progression the risk versus benefit of initiating therapy may, in many cases, still be in favour of no therapy and continued observation. This will vary depending on the individuals risks (such as family and past medical history) and on the choice of agents in the regimen, some regimens having greater risks than others.


Adis International Limited Lamivudine Zidovudine Ritonavir Indinavir 
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Copyright information

© Adis International Limited 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Graeme J. Moyle
    • 1
  • Brian G. Gazzard
    • 1
  1. 1.Chelsea and Westminster HospitalLondonEngland

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