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To assess the antiviral efficacy, safety and adherence in patients switched to an abacavir-containing nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NRTI) regimen after long-term HIV-1 RNA suppression with a dual NRTI/protease inhibitor (PI) combination.In an open-label, multicentre study, patients receiving 2NRTI plus PI for at least 6 months, with a history of undetectable plasma HIV-1 RNA since the initiation of therapy and plasma HIV-1 RNA < 50 copies/ml at screening, were randomly assigned to replace the PI with abacavir (n = 105) or continue the same treatment (n = 106). Clinical assessments included plasma HIV-1 RNA, chemistry, haematology, lymphocyte counts, and adverse event reports. Adherence to treatment was assessed by patient self-report.A significantly longer time to treatment failure was demonstrated in the abacavir arm compared with the PI arm (P = 0.03) while treatment failure was experienced by significantly more patients in the PI arm: 24 (23%) versus 12 (12%) (P = 0.03). Therapy-limiting toxicity led to treatment failure in eight versus 14 cases in the abacavir and PI arms, respectively, whereas virological rebound was the cause in four versus two cases. Significant reductions in cholesterol and non-fasting triglyceride plasma levels at 48 weeks were observed in the abacavir arm (P < 0.001 and P = 0.035, respectively). The number of patients reporting no difficulty in taking their therapy showed a marked increase from baseline in the abacavir arm.The replacement of PI by abacavir in a triple combination regimen following prolonged suppression of plasma HIV-1 RNA provides continued virological suppression, significant improvements in lipid abnormalities and enhanced ease of dosing.