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Assessing Neurocognitive Changes in HIV Patients

By Jen A. Miller

jessica adamsJESSICA ADAMS, PharmD, BCPS, is an assistant professor of clinical pharmacy at USciences and also has a clinical practice site at the HIV Clinic at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, New Jersey. The two are perfectly intertwined, she said. “My research projects have incorporated things that come up in the clinic that need to be addressed.”

In 2013, she received an American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy New Investigator Award, which provided a grant to study neurocognitive disorders in patients taking antiretroviral medicines. The study focuses specifically on integrase inhibitors, which are the newest class of antiretrovirals being used to treat HIV patients.

“Since antiretrovirals came onto the market and became more and more effective at treating HIV, we have seen a sharp decline in the number of patients who have HIV-associated dementia,” she said. That dementia can lead to loss of memory and abstract thinking, poor judgment, decreased coordination, and even personality changes.

Despite the effectiveness of the drugs, patients are still reporting symptoms like memory and attention deficits, “things that are a little bit more minor that don’t necessarily interfere with the patient’s day-to-day life,” Dr. Adams said. “There’s some indication that there’s still some damage being caused by the virus itself.”

quoteIn the study, the team assesses a neurocognitive baseline and then performs another assessment after patients have been on the drugs for six months and compares any changes.

Dr. Adams is also looking at how to make sure that her patients adhere to their drug regimens. “Adherence is the No. 1 thing that’s going to predict if their therapy is going to be effective or not,” she said.

Dr. Adams came to USciences in 2012 after completing a fellowship in HIV pharmacology at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill because she knew she would be able to teach, conduct research, and keep a robust clinical practice. “I knew coming here I would be able to have a good mix.”

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