What You Should Know
When you started your HIV treatment, there were a number of clinical factors considered when choosing the right HIV drug regimen for you. Then the effectiveness of your regimen and treatment should have been closely monitored to make sure it was right for you.
In the past, doctors for the most part discouraged people from changing their medicines unless the regimen they were on stopped working. There are several reasons why drug regimens stop working, some reasons are clinical and some more have to do with the individual.
Here are a few of the possibilities why your current HIV regimen may not be not working for you and reasons why it can fail:
1 Drug Resistance
As you may know, there are different strains of HIV. There are tests that can and should be given to see if your strain is resistant to a certain class of drug. Resistance can also be transmitted. This is one reason why continued monitoring is important. If you acquire a transmitted resistance, your current regimen can fail to be effective against a new strain of HIV.
2 Pharmaceutical, Recreational and Herbal Drug Interactions
Interactions between various prescription drugs, recreational drugs and even herbal supplements can cause your current regimen to be less effective or fail. This can be due to a lack of absorption or interference with your HIV medications. Make sure you consult your doctor about even herbal supplements that you might be considering taking and be honest about any and all recreational drugs and alcohol consumption.
3 Food Restrictions
Make sure you are taking your HIV medications as prescribed. There are some HIV medications that should be taken with food or a meal to increase their effectiveness and also lower potential side effects. Be sure to consult your doctor or pharmacist if you are unsure.
Adherence – sticking with your regimen – is extremely important! The rule is that you should be 95% or better at taking your medications as prescribed. If you fall below that, you risk drug resistance.
5 Pill Size And Pill Burden
HIV medications come in many different shapes and sizes some pills are very large. Also, the pill burden, or number of pills to be taken throughout the day, can be numerous. Some people have a hard time swallowing larger pills and some have trouble remembering when and what to take. This effects your adherence so let your doctor know if you’re having problems with these issues.
6 Side Effects
All HIV drugs have been tested through many clinical trials and they all have known side effects. That doesn’t mean that you will absolutely have to deal with a particular side effect but it also means that you may have one not stated. This may be something that you can’t deal with for whatever reason or it may be something that can be treated. Definitely let your doctor know about the side effects you are experiencing.
Here’s the good news!
Years ago, and many of the old-timers will remember this, the drugs were few and far between. You had to deal with the side effects, the pill burden, adherence was difficult and a host of other things.This is not so much the case anymore and you have options that might be easier and more effective for you individually.
Combination drugs are extremely popular because they reduce the pill burden associated with the standard three-drug “cocktail.” If you are having trouble with the number and timing of pills you have to take, this might be for you. Atripla, for instance, combines a complete and effective HIV regimen into just one pill taken once-a-day. Another brand new drug is Complera although Complera is recommended for use by those first starting HIV treatment. There are other combination drugs that also reduce pill burden by combining two of the three medications.
If you are experiencing side effects that you can’t tolerate, sometimes your doctor can adjust medications to lessen or avoid some or all of the side effects.
Salvage Therapy or Treatment
If you have developed drug resistance to your current regimen or a part of your current regimen, there are better options today. Newer classes of medications such as Entry Inhibitors, Integrase Inhibitors and Fusion Inhibitors increase your treatment options and can give many a second chance at finding an effective treatment regimen. Please discuss all aspects of your current regimen as well as all your treatment issues with your doctor who knows you and knows HIV. There are more options than ever for you so don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Copyright 2015, Positive Health Publications, Inc.
This magazine is intended to enhance your relationship with your doctor - not replace it! Medical treatments and products should always be discussed with a licensed physician who has experience treating HIV and AIDS!