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Int J Epidemiol. 2009 Jun;38(3):746-56. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyp004. Epub 2009 Feb 17.

Adherence to first-line antiretroviral therapy affects non-virologic outcomes among patients on treatment for more than 12 months in Lusaka, Zambia.

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  • 1Centre for Infectious Disease Research in Zambia, Lusaka, Zambia. bchi@uab.edu



High-level adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) is associated with favourable patient outcomes. In resource-constrained settings, however, there are few validated measures. We examined the correlation between clinical outcomes and the medication possession ratio (MPR), a pharmacy-based measure of adherence.


We analysed data from a large programmatic cohort across 18 primary care centres providing ART in Lusaka, Zambia. Patients were stratified into three categories based on MPR-calculated adherence over the first 12 months: optimal (> or =95%), suboptimal (80-94%) and poor (<80%).


Overall, 27 115 treatment-naïve adults initiated and continued ART for > or =12 months: 17 060 (62.9%) demonstrated optimal adherence, 7682 (28.3%) had suboptimal adherence and 2373 (8.8%) had poor adherence. When compared with those with optimal adherence, post-12-month mortality risk was similar among patients with sub-optimal adherence [adjusted hazard ratio (AHR) = 1.0; 95% CI: 0.9-1.2] but higher in patients with poor adherence (AHR = 1.7; 95% CI: 1.4-2.2). Those <80% MPR also appeared to have an attenuated CD4 response at 18 months (185 cells/microl vs 217 cells/microl; P < 0.001), 24 months (213 cells/microl vs 246 cells/microl; P < 0.001), 30 months (226 cells/microl vs 261 cells/microl; P < 0.001) and 36 months (245 cells/microl vs 275 cells/microl; P < 0.01) when compared with those above this threshold.


MPR was predictive of clinical outcomes and immunologic response in this large public sector antiretroviral treatment program. This marker may have a role in guiding programmatic monitoring and clinical care in resource-constrained settings.

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