A Pharmacokinetic Evaluation of Levonorgestrel Implant and Antiretroviral Therapy

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University of Nebraska

Status and phase

Phase 2




Drug: Nevirapine
Drug: Efavirenz
Drug: Levonorgestrel

Study type


Funder types



1R21HD074462-01 (U.S. NIH Grant/Contract)

Details and patient eligibility


The use of hormone contraception poses a significant challenge for the estimated 16 million HIV-infected women of childbearing age. This is due to known drug interactions with antiretroviral therapy (medicines used to treat HIV) that may jeopardize contraception effectiveness. By evaluating the impact of antiretroviral therapy on a levonorgestrel subdermal implant, the most widely available hormone implant in low and middle-income countries, this study will translate its findings into an evidence-based approach to co-manage these important medications. The investigators hypothesize that women receiving nevirapine or efavirenz-based antiretroviral therapy will have a significant decrease in the mean levonorgestrel plasma concentration measured six months after the implant's insertion as compared to those women who are not taking antiretroviral therapy. Although the implant's efficacy may be retained initially, the investigators propose that a decrease in levonorgestrel concentrations in women receiving antiretroviral therapy may jeopardize the implant's effectiveness near the end of its intended duration of use (5 years).

Full description

Family planning services, including hormone contraceptives, are critical for HIV-infected women, in whom prevention of unintended pregnancy not only decreases maternal and child mortality, but also reduces the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission. Similarly, antiretroviral therapy (ART) is a lifesaving intervention that improves the health and economic status of HIV-infected women throughout the world. Therefore, it is of significant public health importance to guide the appropriate use these essential medications. To this end, millions of HIV-infected women in low and middle income countries (LMIC) currently use or are gaining access to subdermal progestin-containing implants as a preferred method of long-acting reversible contraception. These implants are often combined with ART despite the lack of critically needed pharmacokinetic (PK) drug-interaction data to inform their safe and effective concomitant use. Highlighting this concern are several case reports of unintended pregnancy that occurred in patients with subdermal progestin-containing implants concurrently receiving non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI)-based ART, the most commonly used ART in LMICs. While NNRTIs are known to significantly decrease oral pill progestin concentrations, no data are available to inform healthcare providers of the impact of NNRTIs on progestin concentrations following release from subdermal implants. To fill this critical gap in knowledge, the overall aim of this proposal is to conduct a PK study to evaluate the combination of a levonorgestrel (LNG) implant and NNRTI (nevirapine or efavirenz)-based ART in HIV-infected Ugandan women. The investigators propose that lower LNG concentrations will be observed in patients on NNRTI-based ART and although the implant's efficacy may be retained initially, this negative interaction will jeopardize implant effectiveness near the end of its intended duration of use (5 years). The specific aims of this project are (1) to characterize the PK of LNG released from a subdermal implant over one year in HIV-infected women with and without NNRTI-based ART and (2) to evaluate the potential for a bidirectional drug-interaction resulting from the long-term impact of chronic progestin exposure on antiretroviral concentrations. To achieve these aims, this study will enroll 20 HIV-infected women into each of three study groups: a control group not receiving ART and two treatment arms consisting of patients receiving nevirapine- or efavirenz- based ART. Using sparse PK sampling strategies, LNG, nevirapine or efavirenz concentrations will be measured over one-year and compared between and within groups, as appropriate. The LNG data will also be used to develop a PK model that will predict LNG disposition over the following three years of intended use, allowing for identification of the safe duration of LNG implant use in women on NNRTI-based ART. At the conclusion of this project, the first evidence-based medical knowledge will be available to guide the safe and effective concomitant use of subdermal LNG implants and NNRTIs, thereby improving management of reproductive health in millions of HIV-infected women worldwide.


60 patients




18+ years old


No Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion criteria

  • Evidence of a personally signed and dated informed consent document indicating that the subject (or a legal representative) has been informed of all pertinent aspects of the study.
  • Subjects who are willing and able to comply with scheduled visits, treatment plan, laboratory tests, and other study procedures.
  • Women age 18 years or older
  • Diagnosed with HIV-1 infection
  • Desiring LNG subdermal implant as a contraceptive method
  • Subjects not yet eligible for ART (based on the Ugandan Treatment Guidelines); or subjects receiving nevirapine or efavirenz-based ART for a minimum of 1 month prior to screening

Exclusion criteria

  • For patients currently on ART: HIV-1 RNA > 400 copies/mL at screening visit
  • Serum hemoglobin < 9.0 g/dl
  • Elevations in serum levels of alanine transaminase (ALT) above 5 times the upper limit of normal
  • Elevations in serum creatinine above 2.5 times the upper limit of normal
  • Use of drugs known to be contraindicated with levonorgestrel, nevirapine (NVP group only), or efavirenz (EFV group only) within 30 days of study entry. Due to the dynamic nature of drug interactions related to antiretroviral therapy, the study team will review all concomitant medications at screening based on the US Department of Health and Human Services drug interaction tables or the AIDS Clinical Trials Group Drug Interactions Database.
  • Currently pregnant or postpartum <30 days at study entry
  • No concurrent use of other hormonal contraception is allowed during the study period

Trial design

Primary purpose




Interventional model

Parallel Assignment


None (Open label)

60 participants in 3 patient groups

Control group (no current ART)
Active Comparator group
Levonorgestrel subdermal implant in subjects not yet receiving ART (control group)
Drug: Levonorgestrel
NVP-based ART group
Active Comparator group
Levonorgestrel subdermal implant in subjects receiving nevirapine-based ART
Drug: Levonorgestrel
Drug: Nevirapine
EFV-based ART group
Active Comparator group
Levonorgestrel subdermal implant in subjects receiving efavirenz-based ART
Drug: Levonorgestrel
Drug: Efavirenz

Trial contacts and locations



Data sourced from clinicaltrials.gov

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