Donnell D, Hughes JP, Wang L, Chen YQ, Fleming TR. Study design considerations for evaluating efficacy of systemic preexposure prophylaxis interventions. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2013, 63: S130-4. PMC3725298
BACKGROUND: The development of interventions for systemic pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) faces several significant challenges following the US Food and Drug Administration's approval of emtricitabine/tenofovir (FTC/TDF) for HIV prevention. This development is particularly complex because of inconsistency of efficacy results of FTC/TDF PrEP trials for HIV prevention. METHODS: Possible designs for a PrEP phase 3 efficacy trial are obtained by considering scenarios for potential experimental PrEP and control regimens, including consideration of placebo and active controls, longer acting PrEP and alternate dosing schedules. RESULTS: Noninferiority (NI) trials with hazard ratio NI margins ranging from 1.10 to 1.25 can be justified in the contexts of the 3 PrEP trials demonstrating efficacy of FTC/TDF. However, these HIV endpoint trials may require extremely large number of participants, particularly in settings where FTC/TDF has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV acquisition. NI trials also are often difficult to interpret because they depend on previous placebo-controlled efficacy results. Superiority trials for PrEP are plausible in settings where FTC/TDF efficacy is not yet established, possibly due to low adherence (ie, women at risk as in FemPrEP and VOICE): a new product with potential for higher adherence and potency would be a promising candidate in this setting. CONCLUSIONS: Following Food and Drug Administration's approval of FTC/TDF for PrEP, trials to establish efficacy of new PrEP regimens require stringent design standards, together with rigorous debate about adherence within study populations and many important ethical issues.