Low dose versus high dose stavudine for treating people with HIV infection

Nombulelo Magula*, Martin Dedicoat

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Stavudine remains a component of combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) in resource-constrained countries due to its relatively low cost despite the WHO recommendation for its phasing out as a strategy to reduce stavudine associated toxicities. Where stavudine is still in use, it is recommended at a dose lower than the standard dose in order to reduce stavudine related toxicity. Objectives: To compare the safety and virologic efficacy of low dose versus high dose stavudine for treating HIV-1 infection. Search methods: The comprehensive search strategy developed by the Cochrane HIV/AIDS Review Group was used to identify randomised controlled trials that compared the use of low dose versus high dose stavudine. The last search was conducted in February 2014 and the searches covered the period 1996 to 2014. Selection criteria: Randomised controlled trials comparing the use of low dose and high dose stavudine as part of ART combination therapy for treating adults. Data collection and analysis: Two reviewers independently selected eligible trials, assessed methodological quality of the included studies and completed data extraction and analysis. Main results: The search identified 3952 abstracts which were scanned for relevance. Three trials met the inclusion criteria (Milinkovic 2007; McComsey 2008; Sanchez-Conde 2005). All three trials were conducted in developed countries, participants were ART experienced and all had sustained virologic suppression at baseline. A total of 157 participants were recruited to the trials. Sample sizes ranged from 24 to 92 and more than 79% of participants were male.The studies were at a high risk of selection, performance/detection and selective outcome reporting biases. Some baseline characteristics differed among the groups, including triglyceride levels in two studies and body mass index in one study. In light of variation in the design and follow-up of the study results, no meta-analysis was performed and the results of single studies are presented. There was no significant difference in virologic suppression in the included studies (Milinkovic 2007; McComsey 2008; Sanchez-Conde 2005); Risk Ratio (RR) 1.09 (95% CI: 0.93 to 1.28), 0.94 (95% CI:0.59 to 1.50) and 1.03 (95% CI: 0.90 to 1.18) respectively. Symptomatic hyperlactatemia was seen in the high dose arm of the Milinkovic 2007 study; RR 0.21 (95% CI: 0.01 to 4.66), in no participants in the McComsey 2008 trial and not reported on in the Sanchez-Conde 2005 trial. McComsey 2008 and Milinkovic 2007 demonstrated a reduction in bone mineral density (BMD), reduction in limb fat and an increase in triglycerides in the high dose arms. The studies did not indicate that any participants discontinued treatment due to adverse events. Authors' conclusions: This systematic review identified only three small trials that evaluated virologic efficacy and safety of high dose versus low dose stavudine. All three trials were conducted in developed countries and none reported from developing countries yet stavudine remains a component of ART combination therapy in many developing countries. It was not possible to perform a meta-analysis on these trails. Individual results from the trials were imprecise and have not identified a clear advantage in virologic efficacy or safety between low and high dose stavudine. Furthermore, enrolled participants were treatment experienced with sustained virologic suppression and so existing data cannot be generalized to settings where stavudine is currently used in ART naive patients with high viral loads. Stavudine dose reduction trials in ART naive patients, in developing countries where stavudine is still being used are warranted as the phasing out of stavudine that is recommended by WHO may not be immediately universally feasible.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberCD007497
JournalThe Cochrane database of systematic reviews
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 The Cochrane Collaboration. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


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