Safety and efficacy of long-acting injectable agents for HIV-1: Systematic review and meta-analysis


Background: HIV-1 infection continues to affect global health. Although antiretrovirals can reduce the viral load or prevent HIV-1 infection, current drugs require daily oral use with a high adherence level. Long-acting antiretrovirals (LA-ARVs) significantly improve medication adherence and are essential for HIV-1 prophylaxis and therapy.

Objective: This study aimed to investigate the safety and efficacy of long-acting cabotegravir (CAB-LA) and long-acting rilpivirine (RPV-LA) in the prevention and treatment of HIV-1 infection.

Methods: PubMed, Embase, and the Cochrane Library were searched for studies from database inception to November 12, 2022. We included studies that reported efficacy and safety data on LA-ARV intervention in people living with HIV and excluded reviews, animal studies, and articles with missing or duplicate data. Virological suppression was defined as plasma viral load <50 copies/mL 6 months after antiviral therapy initiation. We extracted outcomes for analysis and expressed dichotomous data as risk ratios (RRs) and continuous data as mean differences. Depending on the heterogeneity assessment, a fixed- or random-effects model was used for data synthesis. We performed subgroup analyses of the partial safety and efficacy outcomes of CAB-LA+RPV-LA. The protocol was registered with the Open Science Framework.

Results: We included 12 trials comprising 10,957 individuals, of which 7 were prevention trials and 5 were treatment trials. CAB-LA and RPV-LA demonstrated safety profiles comparable with those of the placebo in terms of adverse event-related withdrawal. Moreover, the efficacy data showed that CAB-LA had a better effect on HIV-1 prevention than tenofovir disoproxil fumarate-emtricitabine (17/5161, 0.33% vs 75/5129, 1.46%; RR 0.21, 95% CI 0.07-0.61; I2=70%). Although CAB-LA+RPV-LA had more drug-related adverse events (556/681, 81.6% vs 37/598, 6.2%; RR 12.50, 95% CI 3.98-39.23; I2=85%), a mild or moderate injection site reaction was the most common reaction, and its frequency decreased over time. The efficacy of CAB-LA+RPV-LA was comparable with that of daily oral drugs at 48 and 96 weeks (1302/1424, 91.43% vs 915/993, 92.2%; RR 0.99, 95% CI 0.97-1.02; I2=0%), and a high level of virological suppression of 80.9% (186/230) was maintained even after 5 years of LA-ARV use. Similar efficacy outcomes were observed in both treatment-naive and treatment-experienced patients (849/911, 93.2% vs 615/654, 94%; RR 0.99, 95% CI 0.96-1.02; I2=0%). According to the questionnaires, more than 85% of people living with HIV favored LA-ARVs.

Conclusions: LA-ARVs showed favorable safety profiles for both the prevention and treatment of HIV-1 infection and were well tolerated. CAB-LA has more satisfactory efficacy than tenofovir disoproxil fumarate-emtricitabine, significantly reducing the rate of HIV-1 infection. CAB-LA+RPV-LA maintains virological suppression for a long time and may be a viable switching strategy with enhanced public health benefits by reducing transmission. However, further trials are required to confirm the efficacy of these drugs.


Wang W, Zhao S, Wu Y, Duan W, Li S, Li Z, Guo C, Wang W, Zhang T, Wu H, Huang X




  • Epidemiology and Determinants of Health
    • Epidemiology
  • Population(s)
    • General HIV+ population
    • General HIV- population
  • Prevention, Engagement and Care Cascade
    • Engagement and Care Cascade
    • Prevention
  • Engagement and Care Cascade
    • Treatment
  • Prevention
    • Biomedical interventions


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