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Statistical and econometric analysis of the treatment of HIV/AIDS


Ramirez, Christina M. (1999) Statistical and econometric analysis of the treatment of HIV/AIDS. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/5BH6-5560.


The epidemic of HIV/AIDS in the United States is constantly changing and evolving, starting from patient zero to now an estimated 650,000 to 900,000 Americans infected. The nature and course of HIV changed dramatically with the introduction of antiretrovirals. This discourse examines many different facets of HIV from the beginning where there wasn't any treatment for HIV until the present era of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). By utilizing statistical analysis of clinical data, this paper examines where we were, where we are and projections as to where treatment of HIV/AIDS is headed.

Chapter Two describes the datasets that were used for the analyses. The primary database utilized was collected by myself from an outpatient HIV clinic. The data included dates from 1984 until the present. The second database was from the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS) public dataset. The data from the MACS cover the time between 1984 and October 1992. Comparisons are made between both datasets.

Chapter Three discusses where we were. Before the first anti-HIV drugs (called antiretrovirals) were approved, there was no treatment to slow the progression of HIV. The first generation of antiretrovirals, reverse transcriptase inhibitors such as AZT (zidovudine), DDI (didanosine), DDC (zalcitabine), and D4T (stavudine) provided the first treatment for HIV. The first clinical trials showed that these antiretrovirals had a significant impact on increasing patient survival. The trials also showed that patients on these drugs had increased CD4+ T cell counts. Chapter Three examines the distributions of CD4 T cell counts. The results show that the estimated distributions of CD4 T cell counts are distinctly non-Gaussian. Thus distributional assumptions regarding CD4 T cell counts must be taken, into account when performing analyses with this marker. The results also show the estimated CD4 T cell distributions for each disease stage: asymptomatic, symptomatic and AIDS are non-Gaussian. Interestingly, the distribution of CD4 T cell counts for the asymptomatic period is significantly below that of the CD4 T cell distribution for the uninfected population suggesting that even in patients with no outward symptoms of HIV infection, there exists high levels of immunosuppression.

Chapter Four discusses where we are at present. HIV quickly grew resistant to reverse transcriptase inhibitors which were given sequentially as mono or dual therapy. As resistance grew, the positive effects of the reverse transcriptase inhibitors on CD4 T cell counts and survival dissipated. As the old era faded a new era characterized by a new class of drugs and new technology changed the way that we treat HIV-infected patients. Viral load assays were able to quantify the levels of HIV RNA in the blood. By quantifying the viral load, one now had a faster, more direct way to test antiretroviral regimen efficacy. Protease inhibitors, which attacked a different region of HIV than reverse transcriptase inhibitors, when used in combination with other antiretroviral agents were found to dramatically and significantly reduce the HIV RNA levels in the blood. Patients also experienced significant increases in CD4 T cell counts. For the first time in the epidemic, there was hope. It was hypothesized that with HAART, viral levels could be kept so low that the immune system as measured by CD4 T cell counts would be able to recover. If these viral levels could be kept low enough, it would be possible for the immune system to eradicate the virus. The hypothesis of immune reconstitution, that is bringing CD4 T cell counts up to levels seen in uninfected patients, is tested in Chapter Four. It was found that for these patients, there was not enough of a CD4 T cell increase to be consistent with the hypothesis of immune reconstitution.

In Chapter Five, the effectiveness of long-term HAART is analyzed. Survival analysis was conducted on 213 patients on long-term HAART. The primary endpoint was presence of an AIDS defining illness. A high level of clinical failure, or progression to an endpoint, was found.

Chapter Six yields insights into where we are going. New technology such as viral genotypic testing, that looks at the genetic structure of HIV and determines where mutations have occurred, has shown that HIV is capable of producing resistance mutations that confer multiple drug resistance. This section looks at resistance issues and speculates, ceterus parabis, where the state of HIV is going. This section first addresses viral genotype and the correlates of viral load and disease progression. A second analysis looks at patients who have failed their primary attempts at HAART and subsequent salvage therapy. It was found that salvage regimens, efforts to control viral replication through the administration of different combinations of antiretrovirals, were not effective in 90 percent of the population in controlling viral replication. Thus, primary attempts at therapy offer the best change of viral suppression and delay of disease progression. Documentation of transmission of drug-resistant virus suggests that the public health crisis of HIV is far from over. Drug resistant HIV can sustain the epidemic and hamper our efforts to treat HIV infection. The data presented suggest that the decrease in the morbidity and mortality due to HIV/AIDS is transient. Deaths due to HIV will increase and public health officials must prepare for this eventuality unless new treatments become available. These results also underscore the importance of the vaccine effort.

The final chapter looks at the economic issues related to HIV. The direct and indirect costs of treating HIV/AIDS are very high. For the first time in the epidemic, there exists treatment that can actually slow disease progression. The direct costs for HAART are estimated. It is estimated that the direct lifetime costs for treating each HIV infected patient with HAART is between $353,000 to $598,000 depending on how long HAART prolongs life. If one looks at the incremental cost per year of life saved it is only $101,000. This is comparable with the incremental costs per year of life saved from coronary artery bypass surgery.

Policy makers need to be aware that although HAART can delay disease progression, it is not a cure and HIV is not over. The results presented here suggest that the decreases in the morbidity and mortality due to HIV are transient. Policymakers need to be prepared for the eventual increase in AIDS incidence and mortality. Costs associated with HIV/AIDS are also projected to increase. The cost savings seen recently have been from the dramatic decreases in the incidence of AIDS defining opportunistic infections. As patients who have been on HAART the longest start to progress to AIDS, policymakers and insurance companies will find that the cost of treating HIV/AIDS will increase.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Social Sciences
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Humanities and Social Sciences
Major Option:Social Science
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Grether, David (advisor)
  • Border, Kim C. (co-advisor)
Thesis Committee:
  • Dubin, Jeffrey A. (chair)
  • Grether, David M.
  • Kiewiet, D. Roderick
  • Sherman, Robert P.
Defense Date:10 May 1999
Non-Caltech Author Email:cr (AT)
Funding AgencyGrant Number
James Irvine FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:03212014-081212289
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8155
Deposited By: Benjamin Perez
Deposited On:21 Mar 2014 20:10
Last Modified:09 Nov 2022 19:19

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