The side effects associated with the HIV drug Abacavir have once again come into question as researchers announce contradictory findings.

In January this year it was announced Abacavir, a widely used nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor, potentially increased a patient’s risk of heart disease by 90 percent.

These findings have come under scrutiny once more, after it was announced at the Mexico AIDS conference that any such increased risks mainly pertained to people with an already heightened risk of heart disease.

Dr Lens Lundgren of the University of Copenhagen announced to the audience in Mexico that, while the overall risk of heart disease was quadrupled, it only tended to occur in individuals with five or more prior heart disease risk factors.

This adverse event appears to be clinically relevant to consider only in patients with elevated cardiovascular risk, Lundgren said.

A further study produced by Glaxo Kline Smith (GSK), the company which manufactures Abacavir, went on to state there was in fact no increased risk of heart disease, based on their pooled analysis of 54 clinical trials.

Glaxo Kline Smith’s ART medical adviser Selwyn Fung said that, based on their findings, patients were at no risk, but he still encouraged them to seek guidance from their doctors.

The results of studies indicating increased risks of heart disease have been unexpected because GSK has always looked into our database and never revealed any increased risks, Fung said.

Obviously we take any potential safety issues very seriously and we’re working with various groups to understand what this means. At this stage though our position is that the data is inconclusive.

This sentiment was echoed by the treatments spokesperson for NAPWA Bill Whittaker, who warned that patients should stay on the drug.

The Abacavir findings are of concern but they are also not clear-cut and further follow-up trials will be needed, he said.

At this stage it seems that the increased cardiovascular risk associated with Abacavir is linked to how many other cardiovascular risk factors you have, so NAPWA recommends that HIV-positive people taking Abacavir keep taking the drug, but take the opportunity to talk to their doctor about the study findings, their heart disease risk factors and whether they should continue on Abacavir.

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