Findings fill a key research gap
The current study is important given the limited data on effectiveness and outcomes in pregnancy with the use of contemporary HIV regimens in the United States, Martina L. Badell, MD, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Emory University, Atlanta, said in an interview.
“Pregnancy is still among exclusion criteria for most drug studies,” said Dr. Badell, who was not involved in the current study. “Dolutegravir-based ART is first line in the U.S. today because of its effectiveness, lower side effects, and higher barrier to resistance; therefore understanding the benefits and birth outcomes in pregnancy is critical,” she explained.
Dr. Badell said she was not surprised by the study findings. “However it is very reassuring to see in a large observational study comparing the dolutegravir regimens to other contemporary regimens in pregnancy, such a high level of viral suppression and no increased risk of adverse perinatal outcomes,” she said.
The study findings will impact clinical practice by reaffirming patient counseling regarding the use of dolutegravir in pregnancy, said Dr. Badell. “The use of ART in pregnancy is complex given the number of drug choices, whether the patient was on ART prior to pregnancy or initiated during pregnancy, and the various factors other than ART that affect perinatal outcomes, such as preterm birth and congenital anomalies, she explained.
The finding that the risk of adverse outcomes was higher for those who initiated ART during pregnancy vs. those who were already on ARTs when they became pregnant contradicts some previous research, said Dr. Badell. But this is “reassuring, as we highly recommend ART with viral suppression prior to pregnancy or to start as early as possible in pregnancy.”
Adverse birth outcomes can be affected by many variables such as age, substance abuse, prior adverse birth outcome and other factors, and larger studies that control for these variables will allow better evaluation of the effect of the ART drugs, Dr. Badell added.
The study was funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, along with the Office of the Director, National Institutes of Health; National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research; National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders; National Institute of Mental Health; National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Cancer Institute; National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism; and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute through cooperative agreements with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Tulane University School of Medicine.
The researchers and Dr. Badell had no financial conflicts to disclose.