Study Finds HIV-Positive People Taking Some Antiretrovirals Are at Increased Risk of Diabetes, Heart Disease
HIV-positive people receiving treatment for the virus might be at an increased risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes because some antiretroviral drugs can cause fat on the arms, legs, face and buttocks to move to the stomach, researchers at Australia's Garvan Institute said Monday, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. According to the Herald, excess weight around the waist can increase a person's chances of developing cardiovascular and metabolic disorders, but physicians say newer classes of drugs, which do not cause fat redistribution, are too expensive for most people.
Katherine Samaras -- lead author of the study, which was published in the journal Obesity -- said the findings indicate that older antiretrovirals, still commonly used in Australia, can give many HIV-positive patients the same level of heart disease risk seen in obese people with sedentary lifestyles. The Herald also reports the study found that antiretrovirals can cause fat cells to create inflammatory molecules promoting certain diseases. Samaras said, "When fat cells are healthy, they help maintain our metabolism, but if they become too large or are affected by drugs, such as HIV medications, they can produce" numerous chemicals linked to heart disease. She added, "We also have the problem that the older drugs are off-patent now and very cheap, so they are the frontline treatment" in developing countries. According to Samaras, "There are drugs on the market which do not have these side effects, but they are not yet on" Australia's pharmaceutical benefits programs and are "too expensive for most people. The primary concern is to optimize viral suppression, that is reduce the virus load in the body, to minimize its effects." She added that physicians should ensure that their HIV-positive patients are regularly screened for diabetes (Benson, Sydney Morning Herald, 11/18).