Effect of 7 days of phenytoin on the pharmacokinetics of and the development of resistance to single-dose nevirapine for perinatal HIV prevention: a randomized pilot trial

Quirine Fillekes, Eva P. Muro, Catherine Chunda, Susan Aitken, Elton R. Kisanga, Chipepo Kankasa, Margaret J. Thomason, Diana M. Gibb, A. Sarah Walker and David M. Burger
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Objectives: To confirm whether 7 days of phenytoin, an enzyme inducer, would decrease the elimination half-life of single-dose nevirapine and to investigate its effect on the development of nevirapine resistance in pregnant, HIV-infected women.

Methods: In a pharmacokinetic pilot trial (NCT01187719), HIV-infected, antiretroviral (ARV)-naive pregnant women ≥18 years old from Zambia and Tanzania and with CD4 cell counts >350 cells/mm3 were randomized 1 : 1 to a control (zidovudine pre-delivery, single-dose nevirapine/zidovudine/lamivudine at delivery and zidovudine/lamivudine for 7 days post-delivery) or an intervention (control plus 184 mg of phenytoin once daily for 7 days post-delivery) group. Primary endpoints were the pharmacokinetics of and resistance to nevirapine.


Results: Thirty-five and 37 women were allocated to the control and intervention groups, with median (IQR) ages of 27 (23–31) and 27 (23–33) years, respectively. Twenty-three and 23 women had detectable nevirapine levels at delivery and subsequent samples in the control and the intervention groups, respectively. Geometric mean (GM) (95% CI) plasma levels of nevirapine at delivery were 1.02 (0.58–1.78) mg/L and 1.14 (0.70–1.86) mg/L in the control and intervention groups, respectively (P = 0.76). One week after delivery, 0/23 (0%) and 15/22 (68%) control and intervention mothers, respectively, had undetectable levels of nevirapine (<0.05 mg/L; P<0.001). One week later, the figures were 10/21 (48%) and 18/19 (95%) mothers, respectively (P = 0.002). The GM (95% CI) half-life of nevirapine was 63.2 (52.8–75.7) versus 25.5 (21.6–30.1) h in the control group versus the intervention group (P < 0.001). New nevirapine mutations were found in 0/20 (0%) intervention-group mothers versus 1/21 (5%) control-group mothers. Overall, there was no difference in adverse events reported between the control and intervention arms (P > 0.28).

Conclusions: Adding 7 days of an enzyme inducer to single-dose nevirapine to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV significantly reduced subtherapeutic nevirapine levels by shortening the half-life of nevirapine. As prolonged subtherapeutic nevirapine dosage leads to the emergence of resistance, single-dose nevirapine could be used with phenytoin as an alternative if other ARVs were unavailable.