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Length of treatment

Feb 26, 2006

I have been on the same treatment for several years amd ot seems to be working well (Combivir & Sustiva). How long should I stay on the same regimine?


Response from Dr. Young

Thanks for your post.

I'm a big believer in the aint-broke-don't-fix school. If you've been on your successfully on your current regimen for multiple years, it's unlikely that you have significant difficulties with your side effects or toxicities.

Any switch to a new set of medications comes with the uncertainty of new side effects or worse, possible issues related to drug potency and the risk of treatment failure. If you've been doing well for years on your current regimen, it's very unlikely that you'll experience treatment failure on the same regimen any time in the near-term future. I still have a select group of patients who are still taking their first three-drug combo; going on 10 years now, despite apparent improvements in their treatment options.

So, in order to fully assess risks and benefits, these negatives must be offset by a greater set of potential benefits-- benefits such as improved adherence (for example, going from twice-daily to once-daily regimen) or improving the short- or long-term side effect profile. Some patients have been "stable" on regimens for a long time, but have but up with low-grade side effects that impact activities of daily living or require other medical interventions (or medications) to minimize drug-related side effects. These are the patients in my practice who frequently benefit from stable switching of medications.

What are the vulnerabilities of your current regimen? Combivir can be associated with fatigue, nausea, headaches and a slightly increased risk of fat loss; efavirenz (Sustiva) is associated with mood instability (for example, depression) or poor sleep quality. Lastly, yours is a twice daily regimen, and once-daily options are available now. If you're having long-term issues with these, it might be worth discussing your symptoms with your doctor.

Good luck, good health, BY

Meds without HIV
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