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Lactic Acidosis & HIV meds stopped
Sep 5, 2000

I have elevated lactic acid. this is after taking 5 weeks of effavarenz, d4t, and ddi. Sustiva made me psychiatrically ill so we stopped all meds. VL is now 0 from 31,000 5 wks ago. Dr does not want to put me back on meds because of this new mitochondrial/lactic acid issue. I am confused. I hear life-threatening and I hear also that I'll be ok off meds -- but what about the HIV? I also have extreme elevated cholesterol (330+ w/ldl 219). I'm trying to hang in there and be active in my medical care but I need some more info. What can you help me with...please and thank you. I'm scared and I'm trying to not worry my HIV free husband and my 14 mo old baby girl.

Response from Dr. Squires

Dear Scared:

Unfortunately, we are still learning about the clinical condition known as lactic acidosis and do not have all the answers. It is confusing and frightening when you hear that this condition can potentially be fatal. Let's try to make some sense of what is happening in your case.

I assume that this is the first antiretroviral regimen that you have received? It sounds like you have had a good response. Did your physician obtain the lactic acid level because you were having some problems like belly pain or weight loss or as a routine lab test? If the level was elevated in the setting of symptoms, stopping the medications is very appropriate. If, however, you are not having any symptoms, it is not clear what the significance of an elevated lactic acid is. There are many factors that may lead to an elevated lactic acid level, including problems with the way the test is done. You need to discuss this with your doctor. Sometimes the medications can be continued with very close monitoring. It is difficult for me to say what is the best course for you to take but you should at least talk to your doctor about all the possibilities.

In terms of your elevated cholesterol, you should have a fasting level obtained. If it is elevated, you should discuss your diet and exercise program with your doctor before even thinking about taking medications for this. If your cholesterol rose as a result of the medications, it should normalize off the medications. Your doctor may want to consider this when he/she decides which meds to restart.

Last, but not least, if you decide to restart efavirenz, remember that you should not become pregnant on this drug.

Hope that this helps. Good luck.


Kathleen E. Squires, M.D.


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