Treatment Interruption and Variation in Tablet Taking Behaviour Result in Viral Failure: A Case-Control Study from Cape Town, South Africa

Journal Article


Journal Title

PLoS One

Journal ISSN
Volume Title

Public Library of Science


University of Cape Town

BACKGROUND: Understanding of the impact of non-structured treatment interruption (TI) and variation in tablet-taking on failure of first-line antiretroviral therapy (ART) is limited in a resource-poor setting. METHODS: A retrospective matched case-control analysis. Individuals failing ART were matched by time on ART with 4 controls. Viral load (VL) and CD4 count were completed 4-monthly. Adherence percentages, from tablet returns, were calculated 4-monthly (interval) and from ART start (cumulative). Variation between intervals and TI (>27 days off ART) were recorded. Conditional multivariate logistic regression analysis was performed to estimate the effect of cumulative adherence <90%, at least one episode of adherence variation >10% and TI on virological failure. Age, gender, baseline log VL and CD4 were included as possible confounders in the multivariate model. RESULTS: 244 patients (44 cases, 200 controls) were included. Median age was 32 years (IQR28-37), baseline CD4 108 cells/mm3 (IQR56-151), VL 4.82 log (IQR4.48-5.23). 94% (96% controls, 86% failures) had cumulative adherence >90%. The odds of failure increased 3 times (aOR 3.01, 95%CI 0.81-11.21) in individuals with cumulative adherence <90%, 2.2 times (aOR 2.20, 95%CI 1.04-4.64) in individuals with at least one episode of fluctuating adherence of >10% and 4.01 times (aOR 4.01, 95%CI 1.45-11.10) in individuals with TIs. For individuals with TI and cumulative adherence >95%, the odds of failing were 5.65 (CI 1.40-22.85). CONCLUSION: It is well known that poor cumulative adherence increases risk of virological failure, but less well understood that TI and variations in tablet-taking also play a key role, despite otherwise excellent adherence.