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Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) suggest that the efficacy of tenofovir-based preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) strongly depends on the consistency of PrEP use. We explore how the patterns of pill taking and waning of PrEP protection may affect PrEP efficacy for HIV prevention.A 2-arm RCT was simulated by mathematical models assuming that the prescribed daily doses were skipped periodically, randomly, or in large blocks. Risk-driven adherence, in which PrEP was taken when sex was expected, was also investigated. Three temporal PrEP protection profiles were explored: long (5 days), intermediate (3 days), and short (24 hours). Modeling results were compared to the efficacy observed in completed RCTs.The expected PrEP efficacy was 60% with periodic, 50% with random, and 34% with block adherence when PrEP had a long protection profile and pills were taken only 50% of the days. Risk-driven pill taking resulted in 29% and 37% daily pills taken and efficacy of 43% and 51%, respectively, for long protection. High PrEP efficacy comparable with that observed in Partners PrEP and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Botswana trials was simulated under long protection, high overall adherence, and limited block pill taking; the moderate efficacy observed in iPrEx and Bangkok trials was comparable with the 50% adherence scenarios under random pill taking and long protection.Pill-taking patterns may have a substantial impact on the protection provided by PrEP even when the same numbers of pills are taken. When PrEP retains protection for longer than a day, pill-taking patterns can explain a broad range of efficacies observed in PrEP RCTs.