Correlation Between Pill Counts and Biologic Effects in an HIV-1 Prevention Clinical Trial: Implications for Measuring Adherence

Department of Global Health, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA, .
AIDS and Behavior (Impact Factor: 3.49). 08/2012; 17(2). DOI: 10.1007/s10461-012-0268-0
Source: PubMed


Clinic-based pill counts of unused study medication are frequently used to measure adherence in HIV-1 prevention trials. Monthly pill count adherence data from the Partners in Prevention HSV/HIV Transmission Study, a double-blind, placebo controlled trial of twice-daily acyclovir suppression of herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) in HIV-1 infected persons was used to compare changes between 3,381 placebo and active arm participants in two objective biologic measures of acyclovir's drug activity: reduction in plasma HIV-1 RNA and HSV-2 genital ulcer disease (GUD). Higher acyclovir pill count adherence was associated with greater reductions in plasma HIV-1 RNA and GUD, indicating pill count data is strongly correlated with biological effects of adherence. However, when calculated adherence exceeded 102 % (i.e., fewer pills returned than expected) and when pill counts were missing because bottles were not returned, plasma HIV-1 RNA and GUD effects were diminished, likely indicating periods of non-adherence.

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    • "In both trials, although the biological markers of genital herpes reactivation were different (PCR confirmed GUD in HPTN 039 and HSV-2 shedding ascertained at 3 time points in Mwanza), we found that the effect of acyclovir on biologic measures of anti-HSV-2 activity was similar among participants with pill counts that suggested adherence >105 % and those with adherence <90 %, and lower than those with 90–105 % adherence. This is consistent with recently-reported findings from the Partners in Prevention HSV/HIV Transmission Study, in which low and apparent over-adherence to acyclovir in HIV/HSV-2 dually infected persons was associated with a reduced effect on HIV-1 plasma viral load and HSV-2 GUD [26]. Acyclovir suppression significantly but incompletely reduces symptomatic genital ulcers and HSV-2 shedding, so both are imperfect markers of adherence and drug exposure [27]. "
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    ABSTRACT: For trials of user-dependent HIV prevention products, accurate adherence measurements are essential to interpret and compare results across trials. We used pill count data from two recent HIV prevention trials of herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) suppression, to show that estimates of adherence vary substantially depending on assumptions that are made in analysing pill count data. We associate calculated adherence with biological markers of anti-HSV-2 activity. In both trials, calculated adherence varied considerably, depending on the summary measure used, and the handling of intervals with apparent 'over-adherence' (fewer pills returned than expected), and unreturned pills. Intervals of apparent over-adherence were associated with reduced antiviral effects on biological markers of herpes reactivation, indicating these are likely to represent periods of non-adherence. Our results demonstrate the clear need for standardisation in reporting of adherence data that are based on pill counts.
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Antiretroviral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a novel HIV prevention strategy for which adherence is a known determinant of efficacy. Blood concentrations of PrEP medications are one objective marker of adherence. Methods: In a placebo-controlled PrEP efficacy trial of tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) and TDF with emtricitabine (FTC/TDF) among 4747 African women and men with an HIV-infected partner, we measured plasma tenofovir concentrations from participants in the active PrEP arms: 29 HIV seroconverters (cases) and 196 randomly selected controls who remained uninfected. Results: Among controls, 71% of visits had tenofovir concentrations >40 ng/mL, consistent with steady-state daily dosing, compared with 21% of cases at the visit HIV was first detected. Pill count data indicated that 96% of controls and 66% of cases had >80% adherence for these same visits. The estimated protective effect of PrEP against HIV, based on concentrations >40 ng/mL, was 88% (95% confidence interval: 60 to 96, P < 0.001) for individuals receiving TDF and 91% (95% confidence interval: 47 to 98, P = 0.008) for individuals receiving FTC/TDF. Controls had consistent patterns of PrEP concentrations during follow-up; among the 81% with concentrations >40 ng/mL at month 1, 75% maintained this concentration at month 12. Only 5 of 29 seroconverters seemed to be consistently adherent to PrEP. Tenofovir concentrations >40 ng/mL were associated with older age and shorter time on study; concentrations ≤40 ng/mL occurred more commonly when participants reported no sex with their HIV-infected partner. Conclusions: Plasma concentrations of tenofovir consistent with daily dosing were highly predictive of protection from HIV acquisition. Most of those who took PrEP seemed to have high and consistent adherence.
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