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To estimate the extent of drug resistance accumulation in patients kept on a virologically failing regimen and its determinants in the clinical setting.The study focused on 110 patients of EuroSIDA on an unchanged regimen who had two genotypic tests performed at two time points (t0 and t1) when viral load was > 400 copies/ml.Accumulation of resistance between t0 and t1 was measured using genotypic susceptibility scores (GSS) obtained by counting the total number of active drugs (according to the Rega system v6.4.1) among all licensed antiretrovirals as of 1 January 2006. Patients were grouped according to the number of active drugs in the failing regimen at t0 (GSS_f-t0).At t0, patients had been on the failing combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) for a median of 11 months (range, 6–50 months). Even patients with extensive resistance to the failing regimen were still receiving benefit from treatment. An overall 6-monthly increase of 1.96 (SD, 2.23) International Aids Society-mutations and an average loss of 1.25 (SD, 1.81) active drugs were estimated. In comparison with patients with GSS_f-t0 = 0, the number of active drugs lost was –1.08 [95% confidence interval (CI), –2.13 to –0.03; P = 0.04] in those with GSS_f-t0 of 0.5–1.5 and –1.24 (95% CI, –2.44 to –0.04; P = 0.04) in those with GSS_f-t0 ≥ 2.In patients kept on the same virologically failing cART regimen for a median of 6 months, there was considerable accumulation of drug resistance mutations, particularly in patients with initial low level of resistance to the failing regimen. Randomized comparisons of maintenance treatment strategies while awaiting a new suppressive therapy to become available are warranted.