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hydrea once more

Mar 23, 2000

There is no rationale for using hydroxyurea, so, I want to

know your opinion about this drug in PWA. When should this

drug, in your opinion, be added to treatment? Should HU be initiated early or deferred until the disease becomes more advanced? Thank you for your comments. Carlos (Rio de Janeiro)

Response from Dr. Squires


First let me say that you come from a very beautiful city. I was there this time last year for a symposium. Unfortunately, I was there for only about 40 hours so I did not see as much as I would have liked to!

There is a rationale for the use of hydroxyurea (HU) in the treatment of HIV infection. While it does not have inherent antiretroviral activity, it can enhance the activity of some nucleoside analogs (ddI in particular) by giving them an advantage in the infected cells. In addition, HU does have an effect on the immune system that may be beneficial in HIV infection. The drug does have side effects and is toxic to T cells so there is a downside as well. You are aware that there has been concern that it may potentiate the toxicity of the nucleoside analogs. Unfortunately, as with all the drugs that are currently available for treatment, the picture is a mixed one.

I remain unsure as to when it is optimal to use HU. In patients with advanced disease, it can cause significant toxicity. In early disease, it may help to maximize the effect of certain nucleoside analog combinations, especially if the patient has used nucleoside analogs previously. In addition, it may help to "intensify" therapy when the viral load is not decreasing in the expected manner. Patients who receive HU must be closely monitored for the development of signs and symptoms that suggest toxicity.

Hope that this has been helpful.

Kathleen E. Squires, M.D.

Dissolving the drugs
Sustiva and Employment

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