Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BACKGROUND: Standard-of-care antiretroviral therapy (ART) uses a combination of drugs deemed essential to minimise treatment failure and drug resistance. Protease inhibitors are potent, with a high genetic barrier to resistance, and have potential use as monotherapy after viral load suppression is achieved with combination treatment. We aimed to assess clinical risks and benefits of protease inhibitor monotherapy in long-term clinical use: in particular, the effect on drug resistance and future treatment options. METHODS: In this pragmatic, parallel-group, randomised, controlled, open-label, non-inferiority trial, we enrolled adults (≥18 years of age) positive for HIV attending 43 public sector treatment centres in the UK who had suppressed viral load (<50 copies per mL) for at least 24 weeks on combination ART with no change in the previous 12 weeks and a CD4 count of more than 100 cells per μL. Participants were randomly allocated (1:1) to maintain ongoing triple therapy (OT) or to switch to a strategy of physician-selected ritonavir-boosted protease inhibitor monotherapy (PI-mono); we recommended ritonavir (100 mg)-boosted darunavir (800 mg) once daily or ritonavir (100 mg)-boosted lopinavir (400 mg) twice daily, with prompt return to combination treatment if viral load rebounded. All treatments were oral. Randomisation was with permuted blocks of varying size and stratified by centre and baseline ART; we used a computer-generated, sequentially numbered randomisation list. The primary outcome was loss of future drug options, defined as new intermediate-level or high-level resistance to one or more drugs to which the patient's virus was deemed sensitive at trial entry (assessed at 3 years; non-inferiority margin of 10%). We estimated probability of rebound and resistance with Kaplan-Meier analysis. Analyses were by intention to treat. This trial is registered with the International Standard Randomised Controlled Trial Number registry, number ISRCTN04857074. FINDINGS: Between Nov 4, 2008, and July 28, 2010, we randomly allocated 587 participants to OT (291) or PI-mono (296). At 3 years, one or more future drug options had been lost in two participants (Kaplan-Meier estimate 0·7%) in the OT group and six (2·1%) in the PI-mono group: difference 1·4% (-0·4 to 3·4); non-inferiority shown. 49 (16·8%) participants in the OT group and 65 (22·0%) in the PI-mono group had grade 3 or 4 clinical adverse events (difference 5·1% [95% CI -1·3 to 11·5]; p=0·12); 45 (six treatment related) and 56 (three treatment related) had serious adverse events. INTERPRETATION: Protease inhibitor monotherapy, with regular viral load monitoring and prompt reintroduction of combination treatment for rebound, preserved future treatment options and did not change overall clinical outcomes or frequency of toxic effects. Protease inhibitor monotherapy is an acceptable alternative for long-term clinical management of HIV infection. FUNDING: National Institute for Health Research.

Original publication




Journal article


Lancet HIV

Publication Date





e417 - e426


Adult, Aged, CD4 Lymphocyte Count, Drug Resistance, Viral, Female, HIV, HIV Infections, HIV Protease Inhibitors, Humans, Maintenance Chemotherapy, Male, Middle Aged, Treatment Outcome, United Kingdom, Viral Load, Young Adult