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Why Is Highly Active Anti-retroviral Therapy (HAART) Not Prescribed or Discontinued?

Bassetti Stefano; Battegay, Manuel; Furrer, Hansjakob; Rickenbach, Martin; Flepp, Markus; Kaiser, Laurent; Telenti, Amalio; Vernazza, Pietro L.; Bernasconi, Enos; Sudre, Philippe; the Members of the Swiss HIV Cohort Study
JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes: June 1st, 1999
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Summary:In this cross-sectional survey conducted at the end of 1997 among the physicians of participants of the Swiss HIV Cohort Study (SHCS), 1487 of 2154 patients (69.0%) were treated with highly active Anti-retroviral treatment (HAART) defined as triple therapy with a combination of one or two reverse transcriptase inhibitors, and one or two protease inhibitors; 541 patients (25.1%) had never received such treatment. The physician's perception that the patient would not comply with treatment was one reason for not prescribing HAART to 20% of these patients (110). Physicians indicated that the most common reasons for the patient to refuse HAART were the fear of side effects (18%) and the patient's perception that treatment was too complicated (18%). Among 126 patients (5.8%) no longer receiving HAART, the most common reasons for discontinuing treatment were actual side effects (61%) or the fear of side effects (25%). Overall, 16% of patients did not receive therapy in accord with official Swiss guidelines. Multivariate logistic regression analysis indicated that patients with lower education, active intravenous drug users outside of a drug substitution program, and those who acquired HIV infection through intravenous drug use had a significantly higher risk of inadequate treatment. The physician's judgment of patient adherence and the physician's perception of the patient's fear of side effects are critical for the prescription of HAART. Physicians should address these issues to prevent unilateral withholding of treatment and increase the proportion of patients who may benefit from current Anti-retroviral therapy.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Philippe Sudre, Data Center, Swiss HIV Cohort Study, Beaumont 06 615, CHUV-1011 Lausanne, Switzerland; email:

Manuscript received September 14, 1998; accepted February 10, 1999.

© 1999 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.