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Why Change Your HIV Medication Regimen When You've Been On It For Years, And It's Working?

There are multiple reasons to change your HIV treatment regimen, even if you’ve been taking it for years. Inadequacy of the current treatment, a tough-to-follow drug schedule, too many drugs, and too many side effects are all reasons why you should consider changing your HIV regimen.


Your current medication regimen may not be the most recent suggestion from your health care professional. Newer medications have less effects on your organs than older generational medications. As you live longer, so do your chances of developing other health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Please always discuss new medications you have been prescribed with your health provider so they can make changes to your antiviral therapy if needed.


TREATMENT INADEQUACY

Your current treatment might be inadequate in controlling the progression of the disease. The inadequacy is due to several factors, such as the low efficacy of the drugs or faulty metabolism. 


However, your treatment can be working for you and still be inadequate. This is especially the case when you are on an older generation of HIV medication. After reviewing your history and interviewing your daily lifestyle routines, your provider may want to change your therapy to make your life healthier to avoid any unforeseen events.


DIFFICULTY FOLLOWING YOUR CURRENT DRUG SCHEDULE?

The schedule for HIV medication, at least for older generations, can be hard to follow. The reason is that sometimes there are just too many drugs to be taken at frequent intervals. Older people, and especially people with disabilities, might have difficulties adhering to their tedious drug schedule. Newer drugs don't require frequent dosing and are easier to take on a daily schedule.


Antiviral medications have been altered over the years to help those who are positive stay undetectable with less effort. Pharmaceutical companies have developed ground breaking solutions by combining up to four antiviral therapies into one pill. Ten years ago those same four pills had to be taken individually and at different times throughout a person's busy day. Your health care provider will pick a regimen based on your current health and lifestyle to decrease the amount of pills you have to take daily.


SIDE EFFECTS OF THE DRUGS

Side effects are one of the significant determinants of drug compliance. Generally, patients adhere to their treatment regime when they can tolerate the side effects well. Older HIV drugs carry more side effects than newer ones. The newer generation of antiretroviral therapy is well-tolerated by most HIV patients, which could be a reason to change your HIV regime, even if it's working for you.


DRUG-DRUG INTERACTIONS

Unlike in books, real-life patients often have more than one medical complication. Both HCV and HIV need to be managed while keeping in mind their interactions with each other. HIV drugs, like all other drugs, undergo metabolization in the body, and sometimes they interact with the metabolism of medications for other medical conditions. This can make managing a patient's comorbid conditions more difficult. 

A careful evaluation of drug-drug interactions is thus warranted and is as good a reason to change your HIV regime as any.


DRUG COSTS

For some, the cost of a drug might not be a big deal. For others, however, the cost can be the single determinant of whether the patient sticks to their treatment regime or not. The availability of more than one option for the treatment of HIV has made it easier to manage this problem. Thus, the physician can change medicines to accommodate more affordable drugs in the treatment regime.


RESEARCH LIMITATIONS

All medications, once allowed to be prescribed to patients, are still being researched and studied for their safety and even possible side effects to unplanned circumstances. An unplanned circumstance like pregnancy would be another reason your provider may change your antiviral regimen, though it is not common at this time. There are national databases your provider will include you in to aid in determining if medications are safe and do not cause harm to you or your unborn baby. These conversations will be made between you and your provider.


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