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Less-Used HIV Treatment for African Children More Effective

The nearly 3 million children in sub-Saharan Africa who are living with HIV -- the virus that causes AIDS -- can be treated with one of two drugs to suppress the virus.

Nevirapine is the drug of choice in most of those countries, because it costs less than the other - efavirenz - and is more widely available in a formula for children. However, a new study by researchers in Philadelphia and Botswana comparing the effectiveness of the two drugs found that initial treatment with efavirenz produced better outcomes for children than nevirapine.

Lead author Elizabeth Lowenthal, of The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, says this study could change the standard of care in those parts of the world where most HIV-infected children live.

Previous studies favoring efavirenz over nevirapine in adults have led many countries, including ones in resource-limited settings, to change their recommendations for adult treatment.

Lowenthal points out that negotiations between health officials and pharmaceutical companies have resulted in lower prices for bulk drug purchases. University of Pennsylvania professor Robert Gross, the study's senior author, says "more work should be done to make efavirenz a more financially viable option for children on anti-retroviral therapy in these resource-limited settings."

Their study of the two antiretroviral treatments is published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.

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