Marked Intraindividual Variability in Antiretroviral Concentrations May Limit the Utility of Therapeutic Drug Monitoring

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Effective therapeutic drug monitoring for antiretrovirals requires a better understanding of intraindividual variability in pharmacokinetics.


We determined concentrations of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) protease and nonnucleoside reverse-transcriptase inhibitors for 10 patients with undetectable plasma HIV RNA levels who had been receiving stable regimens for ≥11 months. Plasma samples were collected at the same time of day 3 times per week for up to 4 months. Patients were instructed to take their antiretrovirals at the same time every day. Plasma protease and nonnucleoside reverse-transcriptase inhibitor concentrations were determined using high-performance liquid chromatographic methods. Pharmacokinetic variability was expressed as intraindividual percentage coefficient of variation (ICV), which was calculated as the patient's standard deviation divided by the mean drug concentration for that patient.


ICV was determined for 6 drugs for 10 patients, for a total of 17 different patient-drug combinations, using 600 total samples. ICV was unexpectedly high for most patients who were receiving protease inhibitors (ICVs for individual patients taking lopinavir/ritonavir were 24%, 33%, 51%, and 92%; for patients taking nelfinavir/M8 metabolite, they were 30%/44% and 39%/54%; for patients taking ritonavir, they were 34% and 43%; for patients taking saquinavir, they were 52% and 55%). ICVs for patients receiving nonnucleoside reverse-transcriptase inhibitors were lower (for patients receiving efavirenz, they were 7%, 13%, 29%, and 51%; for a patient receiving nevirapine, it was 25%). The median ICV for all patients receiving protease inhibitors (n = 12) was 43.5%, and for all patients receiving nonnucleoside reverse-transcriptase inhibitors (n = 5), the median ICV was 25%.


Intraindividual variability in concentrations of antiretrovirals was surprisingly high in virologically suppressed patients. Possible contributors include food effects, concomitant use of prescription and herbal medications, assay variability, or medication timing, which was assessed by self-report. High intraindividual pharmacokinetic variability may limit the utility of single measurements in therapeutic drug monitoring for some antiretroviral agents.

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