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Original article

Safety of tenofovir gel, a vaginal microbicide, in South African women: results of the CAPRISA 004 Trial

David C Sokal, Quarraisha Abdool Karim, Sengeziwe Sibeko, Nonhlanhla Yende-Zuma, Leila E Mansoor, Cheryl Baxter, Anneke Grobler, Janet Frolich, Ayesha BM Kharsany, Nomsa Miya, Koleka Mlisana, Silvia Maarshalk, Salim S Abdool Karim

Corresponding author name: Quarraisha Abdool Karim
Corresponding author e-mail: abdoolq2@ukzn.ac.za

Citation: Antiviral Therapy 2013; 18:301-310
doi: 10.3851/IMP2311

Date accepted: 06 July 2012
Date published online: 23 August 2012


Background: Tenofovir gel, used vaginally before and after coitus, reduced women’s acquisition of HIV by 39%. This is a safety assessment of tenofovir gel, including renal, bone, gastrointestinal, genital and haematological parameters.

Methods: In the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) 004, a double-blind, randomized placebo-controlled trial, 445 of the 889 eligibly enrolled women were assigned to tenofovir gel. All participants were advised to use the gel vaginally only, with one dose of gel within 12 h before and a second dose as soon as possible after sex, with no more than two doses in 24 h. Clinical and laboratory safety data were collected at monthly and quarterly visits, respectively. Genital assessments were undertaken at enrolment and quarterly thereafter, or as indicated.

Results: Women assigned to tenofovir gel were exposed to an average monthly vaginal dose of 240 mg of tenofovir (six applications). In total, six women, three in each group, had mild creatinine elevations, all of which occurred in July/August 2008. The incidence of anaemia was 3.5 and 3.8 per 100 women-years in tenofovir and placebo groups, respectively (P=0.80). Of the six women (four tenofovir and two placebo) experiencing bone fractures, none were associated with abnormal phosphate or calcium values. The proportion of women with diarrhoea was higher in the tenofovir gel group (17% versus 11%; P=0.026). There was no significant increase of any genital adverse event in the tenofovir group.

Conclusions: No significant renal, haematological, genital or bone effects were associated with the use of tenofovir gel. Aside from a puzzling increase in diarrhoea, tenofovir gel has an excellent safety profile.


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