Alternative antiretroviral therapy formulations for patients unable to swallow solid oral dosage forms

Am J Health Syst Pharm. 2015 Sep 15;72(18):1555-65. doi: 10.2146/ajhp140575.


Purpose: Evidence-based guidance is presented to assist clinicians in selecting alternative formulations of antiretroviral (ARV) agents for patients with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection who are unable to swallow tablets or capsules.

Summary: The inability to take medications in standard oral dosage forms can be associated with nonadherence or the use of alternative administration strategies such as capsule or tablet breaking, crushing, or chewing. Patients with HIV infection require long-term ARV therapy to maintain viral suppression; ARV agents are predominately available as tablets and capsules that may pose swallowing difficulties for some patients. Using a variety of sources (the primary literature, pharmaceutical package inserts, and requests for unpublished data from drug manufacturers), available evidence on the bioavailability of ARV medications after disruption of the capsule or tablet matrix was reviewed; information on alternative formulations of ARV agents was also assessed. With several ARV agents, disruption of the solid oral dosage form by crushing, chewing, or breaking tablets or opening capsules prior to ingestion has been shown to result in altered bioavailability or pharmacokinetics and thus the potential for incomplete virological suppression, increased adverse effects, and suboptimal health outcomes.

Conclusion: Of the 33 single-agent ARV medications and combination ARV products in five classes available at the time of review, approximately half exist as powders, liquids, injectables, or chewable or dissolvable tablets. If alternative ARV formulations or administration methods are used, close monitoring for achievement of virological and immunologic success and potential toxicities is recommended.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Retroviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Deglutition Disorders*
  • Dosage Forms*
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • Humans


  • Anti-Retroviral Agents
  • Dosage Forms