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Antiretroviral medication adherence and the development of class-specific antiretroviral resistance

Gardner, Edward Ma,c; Burman, William Ja,c; Steiner, John Fb; Anderson, Peter Ld; Bangsberg, David Re

doi: 10.1097/QAD.0b013e32832ba8ec
Editorial Review

Objective: To assess the association between antiretroviral adherence and the development of class-specific antiretroviral medication resistance.

Design and methods: Literature and conference abstract review of studies assessing the association between adherence to antiretroviral therapy and the development of antiretroviral medication resistance.

Results: Factors that determine class-specific adherence–resistance relationships include antiretroviral regimen potency, viral fitness or, more specifically, the interplay between the fold-change in resistance and fold-change in fitness caused by drug resistance mutations, and the genetic barrier to antiretroviral resistance. During multidrug therapy, differential drug exposure increases the likelihood of developing resistance. In addition, antiretroviral medications with higher potency and higher genetic barriers to resistance decrease the incidence of resistance for companion antiretroviral medications at all adherence levels.

Conclusion: Knowledge of class-specific adherence–resistance relationships may help clinicians and patients tailor therapy to match individual patterns of adherence in order to minimize the development of resistance at failure. In addition, this information may guide the selection of optimal drug combinations and regimen sequences to improve the durability of antiretroviral therapy.

aDenver Public Health, Denver, USA

bInstitute for Health Research, Kaiser Permanente Colorado, USA

cDepartment of Medicine, USA

dDepartment of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Colorado Denver, Aurora, Colorado, USA

eMassachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Harvard Initiative for Global Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

Received 11 December, 2008

Revised 6 March, 2009

Accepted 15 March, 2009

Correspondence to Edward M. Gardner, MD, Denver Public Health, 605 Bannock Street, Denver, CO 80204, USA. Tel: +1 303 602 8740; fax: +1 303 602 8739; e-mail:

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.