Guidelines for the Use of Antiretroviral Agents in Adults and Adolescents Living with HIV

The information in the brief version is excerpted directly from the full-text guidelines. The brief version is a compilation of the tables and boxed recommendations.

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Drug-Drug Interactions


Last Updated: October 17, 2017; Last Reviewed: October 17, 2017

Pharmacokinetic (PK) drug-drug interactions between antiretroviral (ARV) drugs and concomitant medications are common, and may lead to increased or decreased drug exposure. In some instances, changes in drug exposure may increase toxicities or affect therapeutic responses. When prescribing or switching one or more drugs in an ARV regimen, clinicians must consider the potential for drug-drug interactions—both those affecting ARVs and those affecting other drugs a patient is taking. A thorough review of concomitant medications in consultation with an expert in ARV pharmacology can help in designing a regimen that minimizes undesirable interactions. Recommendations for managing a particular drug interaction may differ depending on whether a new ARV is being initiated in a patient on a stable concomitant medication or a new concomitant medication is being initiated in a patient on a stable ARV regimen. The magnitude and significance of interactions are difficult to predict when several drugs with competing metabolic pathways are prescribed concomitantly. When prescribing interacting drugs is necessary, clinicians should be vigilant in monitoring for therapeutic efficacy and/or concentration-related toxicities.

Mechanisms of Pharmacokinetic Interactions

PK interactions may occur during absorption, metabolism, or elimination of the ARV and/or the interacting drugs. The most common mechanisms of interactions are described below and listed for each ARV drug in Table 17.

Pharmacokinetic Interactions Affecting Drug Absorption

The extent of oral absorption of drugs can be affected by the following mechanisms:

  • Acid-reducing agents, such as proton pump inhibitors, H2 antagonists, or antacids, can reduce the absorption of ARVs that require gastric acidity for optimal absorption (i.e., atazanavir [ATV] and rilpivirine [RPV]).
  • Products that contain polyvalent cations, such as aluminum, calcium, magnesium-containing antacids, supplements, or iron products, can bind to integrase strand transfer inhibitors (INSTIs) and reduce absorption of these ARV agents.
  • Drugs that induce or inhibit the enzyme cytochrome P450 3A4 (CYP3A4) or efflux transporter p-glycoprotein in the intestines may reduce or promote the absorption of other drugs.

Pharmacokinetic Interactions Affecting Hepatic Metabolism

Two major enzyme systems are most frequently responsible for clinically significant drug interactions.

  • The cytochrome P450 enzyme system is responsible for the metabolism of many drugs, including the non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs), protease inhibitors (PIs), the CCR5 antagonist maraviroc (MVC), and the INSTI elvitegravir (EVG). CYP3A4 is the most common enzyme responsible for drug metabolism, though multiple enzymes may be involved in the metabolism of a drug. ARVs and concomitant medications may be inducers, inhibitors, and/or substrates of these enzymes.
  • The uridine diphosphate glucuronosyltransferase (UGT) 1A1 enzyme is the primary enzyme responsible for the metabolism of the INSTIs dolutegravir (DTG) and raltegravir (RAL). Drugs that induce or inhibit the UGT enzyme can affect the PKs of these INSTIs.

Pharmacokinetic Enhancers (Boosters)

PK enhancing is a strategy used to increase exposure of an ARV by concomitantly administering a drug that inhibits the enzymes that metabolize the ARV. Currently, two agents are used as PK enhancers: ritonavir (RTV) and cobicistat (COBI). Both of these drugs are potent inhibitors of the CYP3A4 enzyme, resulting in higher systemic exposures of the coadministered ARV metabolized by this pathway. Importantly, RTV and COBI have different effects on other CYP- or UGT-metabolizing enzymes and drug transporters. Complex or unknown mechanisms of PK-based interactions preclude extrapolation of RTV drug interactions to certain COBI interactions, such as interactions with warfarin, phenytoin, voriconazole, oral contraceptives, and certain HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors (or statins).

Other Mechanisms of Pharmacokinetic Interactions

Knowledge of drug transporters is evolving, elucidating additional drug interaction mechanisms. For example, DTG decreases the renal clearance of metformin by inhibiting organic cation transporters in renal tubular cells. Similar transporters aid hepatic, renal, and biliary clearance of drugs and may be susceptible to drug interactions. ARVs and concomitant medications may be inducers, inhibitors, and/or substrates of these drug transporters.

Tables 18a through 19b provide information on known or suspected drug interactions between ARV agents and commonly prescribed medications based on published PK data or information from product labels. The tables provide general guidance on drugs that should not be coadministered and recommendations for dose modifications or alternative therapy.

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