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Diabetes Drug Could Help Lessen Metabolic Side Effects of Antiretroviral Drug Regimens

May 19, 2004

A drug usually prescribed to diabetics could help HIV-positive patients on highly active antiretroviral therapy better manage naturally occurring insulin and reduce some of the metabolic side effects of the treatment, according to a study published in the May 18 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine, Reuters reports. Some HIV-positive patients taking HAART experience a loss of body fat, called lipoatrophy, or an odd redistribution of fat on the shoulders or around the internal organs, which can be dangerous. In addition, some patients lose the fat in their faces, which can give them a gaunt look, according to Reuters. Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston studied 27 HIV-positive patients who were on HAART and had insulin sensitivity -- a measure of diabetes risk -- and lipoatrophy. For three months, the patients received either a placebo or GlaxoSmithKline's diabetes drug Avandia, known generically as rosiglitazone. The patients taking Avandia had a 20% improvement in insulin insensitivity, according to the study. "The metabolic complications of this condition are becoming more significant as patients spend more time on HAART," lead author Dr. Colleen Hadigan said, adding, "For example, we now know that 14% of men on this therapy may develop type 2 diabetes, which is four times the usual risk; and concerns are also increasing about the related risk of heart disease." Hadigan said, "We were able to demonstrate that this class of agents can slow down or reverse fat loss in patients with fat atrophy." However, Hadigan concluded that certain patient safety issues need to be resolved before the results can be "widely applied" (Reuters, 5/17).

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