Supervised Breaks From Combination Therapy Have ‘Little Effect’ on Viral Loads of Chronically Infected HIV-Positive Patients, Study Says
"Drug holidays" -- structured, doctor-supervised breaks from combination HIV therapy -- have "little effect" on the immune system's ability to keep HIV levels under control in chronically infected HIV-positive individuals, according to a study published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition, Reuters reports (Gale, Reuters, 9/25). Previous reports on the practice suggested that repeated exposure of HIV to the immune system during the breaks from treatment could reduce a patient's "set-point viral load," the level of HIV in the blood at which an HIV-positive person's body naturally stabilizes. Dr. Annette Oxenius of the Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule in Zurich, Switzerland, and colleagues studied 97 patients with chronic HIV infection. Although the patients' viral loads were "slightly lower" following such breaks from treatment, the difference in the viral loads was "very small," according to Reuters Health. In addition, drug holidays did not affect patients' CD8+ T cells (Reuters Health, 9/23). "In contrast to studies in patients with acute [HIV] infection, where STI did seem to have a more beneficial outcome, our findings in chronically infected patients showed no benefit," Oxenius said, adding, "We did see a slight decrease in plasma viremia after STI, but so far we don't know if this slight decrease is going to be maintained over a long time period" (Reuters, 9/25).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.