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Novel methods to estimate antiretroviral adherence: protocol for a longitudinal study

Authors Saberi P, Ming K, Legnitto D, Neilands TB, Gandhi M, Johnson MO

Received 1 March 2018

Accepted for publication 26 April 2018

Published 18 June 2018 Volume 2018:12 Pages 1033—1042


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Johnny Chen

Parya Saberi, Kristin Ming, Dominique Legnitto, Torsten B Neilands, Monica Gandhi, Mallory O Johnson

Department of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, USA

Background: There is currently no gold standard for assessing antiretroviral (ARV) adherence, so researchers often resort to the most feasible and cost-effective methods possible (eg, self-report), which may be biased or inaccurate. The goal of our study was to evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of innovative and remote methods to estimate ARV adherence, which can potentially be conducted with less time and financial resources in a wide range of clinic and research settings. Here, we describe the research protocol for studying these novel methods and some lessons learned.
Methods: The 6-month pilot study aimed to examine the feasibility and acceptability of a remotely conducted study to evaluate the correlation between: 1) text-messaged photographs of pharmacy refill dates for refill-based adherence; 2) text-messaged photographs of pills for pill count-based adherence; and 3) home-collected hair sample measures of ARV concentration for pharmacologic-based adherence. Participants were sent monthly automated text messages to collect refill dates and pill counts that were taken and sent via mobile telephone photographs, and hair collection kits every 2 months by mail. At the study end, feasibility was calculated by specific metrics, such as the receipt of hair samples and responses to text messages. Participants completed a quantitative survey and qualitative exit interviews to examine the acceptability of these adherence evaluation methods. The relationship between the 3 novel metrics of adherence and self-reported adherence will be assessed.
Discussion: Investigators conducting adherence research are often limited to using either self-reported adherence, which is subjective, biased, and often overestimated, or other more complex methods. Here, we describe the protocol for evaluating the feasibility and acceptability of 3 novel and remote methods of estimating adherence, with the aim of evaluating the relationships between them. Additionally, we note the lessons learned from the protocol implementation to date. We expect that these novel measures will be feasible and acceptable. The implications of this research will be the identification and evaluation of innovative and accurate metrics of ARV adherence for future implementation.

Keywords: adherence assessment, HIV, hair measures, pill counts, pharmacy refills, remote study, text message, antiretroviral therapy, PrEP

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