Treatment of antimony-unresponsive Indian visceral leishmaniasis with ultra-short courses of amphotericin-B-lipid complex
High cost is the principal drawback of treating visceral leishmaniasis (VL; kala-azar) with any of the new lipid formulations of amphotericin B. The aim of the present study was to see if the costs of treatment with such drugs could be reduced by using ultra-short courses. Amphotericin-B-lipid complex (ABLC) was given to 77 Indian patients with antimony-unresponsive VL, either as a single infusion of 5 mg/kg (Group A) or two infusions, each of 5 mg/kg, given 5 days apart (Group B) or on consecutive days (Group C). Other than the anticipated higher fever and chills, treatment was well-tolerated. On day 19 after first infusion, 72 patients were considered apparent cures: 24 (89%) of the 27 in Group A; all 24 (100%) in Group B; and 24 (92%) of the 26 patients in Group C. Six months after treatment, 19 (70%) of 27 in Group A, 19 (79%) of 24 in Group B, and 21 (81%) of 26 in Group C were healthy, relapse-free and considered definitive cures. These cure rates were not statistically different. All 18 treatment failures (five initial non-responders and 13 relapses) were cured after treatment with a 5-day course of ABLC at a higher dose (10-15 mg/kg.day). In a related analysis of hospital plus drug costs for treating antimony-unresponsive VL, short-course ABLC (1-5 days) was compared with conventional amphotericin B (0.75-1.0 mg/kg on alternate days over 30-34 days). This analysis, which included the cost of re-treatment, identified one short-course ABLC regimen with an overall estimated expense which was only modestly higher than that of amphotericin B. Together, the present results provide further support for the use of ABLC in the management of VL patients who fail antimony therapy.