HIV-Positive Patients Find Medications Hard to Take, GlaxoSmithKline Survey Finds
HIV-positive individuals are suffering from "AIDS battle fatigue" and "finding it difficult" to comply with drug regimens requiring them to take 20 or more pills daily, according to data from a survey conducted by Savitz Research and funded by GlaxoSmithKline. Surveys were distributed to 2,500 households with an HIV-positive member and to 2,602 individuals via the Internet. Of the 292 HIV-positive respondents taking medication, 62% said it is "somewhat or very difficult" to adhere to their prescribed drug plan, and that the main obstacle to their compliance is "too many pills." David Morris, administrator of the wellness program at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and HIV-positive since 1983, said, "There are many challenges to being adherent to the drug regimens. Almost every HIV-positive patient gets what I call 'battle fatigue' or AIDS fatigue. You just really get so tired of taking the drugs, taking them with or without food, watching what you eat and knowing that you're going to be doing this the rest of your life." Dr. Charles Farthing of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation said adherence problems for HIV-positive people are "not wholly unlike" those for people with other chronic illnesses. "Adherence is of particular concern with HIV/AIDS because strict adherence is essential to suppress the virus and prevent it from developing mutations, causing resistance to drugs and leading to treatment failure. That means, without a very high level of adherence -- most believe in excess of 95% -- drug treatments will ultimately fail and patients will progress in their disease," Farthing said. "Reducing side effects" of HIV/AIDS medications was another "leading concern" of the respondents. "It may be difficult for people without HIV infection to understand why someone wouldn't be absolutely perfect about taking drugs that can prevent the development of AIDS or slow its progression. But we must realize that taking drugs is a reminder that people are 'sick' and the drugs often come with annoying or sometimes debilitating side effects," Farthing said. Amy Keller, international product development team leader for GSK said, "As a drug manufacturer we obviously are greatly concerned about making effective medication that people can and will take. This survey reinforces our belief that a key goal should be fewer pills that are simple to take" (GlaxoSmithKline release, 3/14).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.