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Managing Side Effects of HIV TreatmentManaging Side Effects of HIV Treatment
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Side Effects & Neuropathy
Oct 28, 2003


I started taking Kaletra, Zerit & 3TC in July 2002. I started noticing problems in my feet about a month later and I was advised that I had peripheral neuropathy. The pain, burning and tightness got to be so bad, that in Jan. 2003 I asked to be removed from Zerit, and I was put on Combivir (I am still taking Kaletra with this).

Since then, I have tried two different types of accupuncture, and have spend hundreds of dollars on Gabapentin. I've also met with three neurologists, I've had nerve testing, and now I'm being sent for an MRI and more meetings with a neurologist.

Recently, while browsing thru material about side-effects of HIV meds, I noticed that 3TC and AZT (both of which are in Combivir) are also listed as causing neuropathy.

Why have none of my doctors told me that these meds can also contribute to the problem? I have had no relief from the treatments or Gabapentin; the pain can be excrutiating and I am never free from it (I never had it before taking the cocktail), and yet I'm continually going from one doctor to another trying to find relief.

We put our faith in our doctors -- what else do we know?

Any thoughts on why the doctors have not discussed this with me? And why can't they make the meds without all of these side-effects? I'm sure that I am not the only reader who is concerned with these issues.

Thanks. brian

Response from Dr. Henry

I have also been guilty of not highlighting the possibility of peripheral neuropathy due to 3TC (less likely AZT). Though the association with peripheral neuropathy is less with 3TC/AZT then with the "d" drugs (such as D4T=Zerit) there is still a low (not zero) rate--in the range of < 5%. Most patients (but not all) with "d" drug related neuropathy will improve when switch to one of the non-"d" drugs. The switch works better if the neuropathy is milder. I have some patient on non-NRTI based therapy (such as double-boosted PIs) in some cases where I am trying to avoid any possible further aggravation of the problem (if due to mitochondrial nerve damage for example). Some patients have benefited from some alternative meds for that (anti-oxidants etc)--check out for their neuropathy suggestions or the bood by Jon Kaiser- Healing HIV. KH

Side effects not getting better

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