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Drug Holiday?

May 11, 2008

I recently switched doctors and my new doctor wants me to stop taking Atripla for a few months so he can "determine if I really need to take the medication." My previous doctor started me on Atripla in November 2006 because my T-Cells dropped below 350. Note that I have not missed a dose (maybe late, but never missed). My question, is it common for HIV+ patients to stop taking their Atripla after having once dropped below 350? Why would I stop taking meds knowing that my T-cells will only drop? Will stopping the meds increase my risk of resistance and eliminate Atripla as a viable option in the future? I am very concerned about my doctors recommendation because based on everything I've read, once you start taking HIV meds you are not suppose to stop. Please advise...

Response from Dr. Young

Thanks for your post.

If you had previously reached a CD4 count below 350, there's no reason why I would not recommend continuing to take your medications.

Stopping medications (treatment interruptions) have been associated with a significantly greater risk of having serious complications, including death and cancers. Further, safely stopping non-nuke regimens can be challenging because the efavirenz part will linger in your body longer than the nuke parts (tenofovir and FTC), a situation of possible virtual monotherapy, and one that could cause risk of drug resistance.

So, I would disagree with your doctor's recommendation about stopping. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits (and bring up the SMART study conclusions about the relative risks of treatment discontinuation).

Best of health, BY

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