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USDTL Assisted Research

Reduction in Drinking was Associated with Improved Clinical Outcomes in Women with HIV Infection and Unhealthy Alcohol Use: Results From a Randomized Clinical Trial of Oral Naltrexone Versus Placebo

Robert L. Cook, Zhi Zhou, Maria Jose Miguez, Clery Quiros, Luis Espinoza, John E. Lewis, Babette Brumback, Kendall Bryant, 

First published: 10 July 2019 –


Variety of alcoholic drinks on a bar

Variety of alcoholic drinks on a bar | Sourced by Adobe©

Alcohol consumption is associated with poor health outcomes in women living with HIV (WLWH), but whether medication can help to reduce drinking in non–treatment‐seeking women or whether reduction in drinking improves HIV outcomes is unclear. We conducted a randomized clinical trial (RCT) of daily oral naltrexone (50 mg) versus placebo in WLWH who met criteria for current unhealthy alcohol use.

WLWH with current unhealthy alcohol use (>7 drinks/wk or >3 drinks/occasion) were randomly assigned to daily oral naltrexone 50 mg (n = 96) or placebo (n = 98) for 4 months. Drinking outcomes, including the proportion of women who reduced (unhealthy use criteria) or quit drinking, were assessed at baseline, 2 months, 4 months (end of treatment), and 7 months. In a secondary analysis, HIV viral suppression and changes in CD4 counts were compared in women who did or did not reduce/quit drinking, regardless of intervention assignment.

The participants’ mean age was 48 years, 86% were African American, and 94% were receiving HIV antiretroviral therapy. Among all participants, 89% and 85% completed the 4‐month and 7‐month follow‐ups, respectively. Participants in both groups substantially reduced drinking over time. At 1 and 3 months, naltrexone was associated with a greater reduction in drinking (p < 0.05), but the proportion who reduced/quit drinking at 4 months (52% vs. 45%, p = 0.36) or 7 months (64% in both groups) was not different. HIV viral suppression at follow‐up was significantly better in participants who reduced/quit drinking versus those continuing unhealthy alcohol use at 4 months (72% vs. 53%, p = 0.02) and 7 months (74% vs. 54%, p = 0.02).

USDTL Assisted Research

Participating in an RCT to reduce drinking was associated with significant drinking reduction regardless of medication assignment, suggesting that nonmedication aspects of research study participation (e.g., repeated assessments and support from research staff) could be important interventions to help reduce drinking outside of research studies. Drinking reduction was associated with improved HIV viral suppression, providing evidence to support recommendations to avoid unhealthy alcohol use among WLWH.

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