Pharmacy refill adherence compared with CD4 count changes for monitoring HIV-infected adults on antiretroviral therapy

Bisson, Gregory P. ; Gross, Robert ; Bellamy, Scarlett ; Chittams, Jesse ; Hislop, Michael ; Regensberg, Leon ; Frank, Ian ; Maartens, Gary ; Nachega, Jean B. (2008-05)

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Background World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for monitoring HIV-infected individuals taking combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) in resource-limited settings recommend using CD4þ T cell (CD4) count changes to monitor treatment effectiveness. In practice, however, falling CD4 counts are a consequence, rather than a cause, of virologic failure. Adherence lapses precede virologic failure and, unlike CD4 counts, data on adherence are immediately available to all clinics dispensing cART. However, the accuracy of adherence assessments for predicting future or detecting current virologic failure has not been determined. The goal of this study therefore was to determine the accuracy of adherence assessments for predicting and detecting virologic failure and to compare the accuracy of adherence-based monitoring approaches with approaches monitoring CD4 count changes. Methodology and Findings We conducted an observational cohort study among 1,982 of 4,984 (40%) HIV-infected adults initiating non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor-based cART in the Aid for AIDS Disease Management Program, which serves nine countries in southern Africa. Pharmacy refill adherence was calculated as the number of months of cART claims submitted divided by the number of complete months between cART initiation and the last refill prior to the endpoint of interest, expressed as a percentage......Conclusions Pharmacy refill adherence assessments were as accurate as CD4 counts for detecting current virologic failure in this cohort of patients on cART and have the potential to predict virologic failure before it occurs. Approaches to cART scale-up in resource-limited settings should include an adherence-based monitoring approach.

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