Przybyla Awarded Grant to Study Prep Benefits and Barriers

Published June 1, 2017

“We are not the first researchers to look at this, but if we can quantify medication in hair samples, this could be an effective tool to monitor adherence and reach out to those who may be struggling with adhering to their medications.”
Department of Community Health and Health Behavior

Dr. Sarahmona Przybyla, assistant professor of community health and health behavior in UB’s School of Public Health and Health Professions received a $15,000 award from the University of Rochester Center for AIDS Research (CFAR), one of 17 such centers around the country.

Dr. Przybyla is a co-principal investigator on this project along with Dr. Charles Venuto, an assistant professor of neurology at the University of Rochester’s Center for Human Experimental Therapeutics. Dr. Venuto is also a graduate of UB’s PharmD program.

Dr. Przybyla and Dr. Venuto will research a less invasive method for measuring a person’s adherence to PrEP. Adherence to the medication is critical. As such, patients typically have to go for a follow-up visit with their doctor every three months and get tested for sexually transmitted infections and HIV, as well as liver functionality.

PrEP users also have to undergo a blood draw to ascertain whether they have been taking the medication as frequently as prescribed. But there are several down sides to measuring PrEP through blood plasma, including the fact that it’s invasive and that blood needs to be stored properly.

As an alternative, Drs. Przybyla and Venuto will examine whether a simple hair sample could be used as an effective indicator of PrEP usage. “With hair samples, you’re getting a better glimpse of cumulative drug concentrations within the blood circulation over a period of weeks and months,” Przybyla said.

She said there are several advantages to hair samples: the process is non-invasive, hair can be stored at room temperature — blood samples have to be kept cold, often on dry ice — and it more accurately reflects adherence. “We are not the first researchers to look at this, but if we can quantify medication in hair samples, this could be an effective tool to monitor adherence and reach out to those who may be struggling with adhering to their medications” Dr. Przybyla said.

“Plus, down the line, this could be a useful tool for self-collection, where the person can send a hair sample to the lab and have it assessed.”