Incidence of neuropsychiatric side effects of efavirenz in HIV-positive treatment-naïve patients in public-sector clinics in the Eastern Cape

  • Razia Gaida
  • Ilse Truter
  • Christoffel Grobler


Background: It is acknowledged that almost half of patients initiated on efavirenz will experience at least one neuropsychiatric side effect.
Objectives: The aim was to determine the incidence and severity of  neuropsychiatric side effects associated with efavirenz use in five public-sector primary healthcare clinics in the Eastern Cape.
Method: The study was a prospective drug utilisation study. A total of 126 medical records were reviewed to obtain the required information. After baseline assessment, follow-up reviews were conducted at 4 weeks, 12 weeks and 24 weeks from 2014 to 2015.
Results: The participant group was 74.60% female (n = 94), and the average age was 37.57±10.60 years. There were no neuropsychiatric side effects recorded for any patient. After the full follow-up period, there were a total of 49 non-adherent patients and one patient had demised. A non-adherent patient was defined as a patient who did not return to the clinic for follow-up assessment and medication refills 30 days or more after the appointed date. Some patients (n = 11) had sent a third party to the clinic to collect their antiretroviral therapy (ART). The clinic pharmacy would at times dispense a two-month supply of medication resulting in the patient presenting only every two months.
Conclusion: Further pharmacovigilance studies need to be conducted to determine the true incidence of these side effects. Healthcare staff must be encouraged to keep complete records to ensure meaningful patient assessments. Patients being initiated on ART need to personally attend the clinic monthly for at least the first 6 months of treatment. Clinic staff should receive regular training concerning ART, including changes made to guidelines as well as reminders of side effects  experienced.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2078-6751
print ISSN: 1608-9693