THURSDAY, Feb. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Preliminary research
suggests that statins restrain the immune systems of HIV patients
and may stave off progression of the AIDS-causing virus.
Although it's too soon to recommend the drug for this purpose,
the findings of this small study raise the possibility that "there
might be drugs that can help adjust the immune response in HIV
patients whether they're taking AIDS medications or not," said Dr.
Brian Agan, director of HIV research with the Infectious Disease
Clinical Research Program at the Uniformed Services University in
Bethesda, Md. He works with some of the study's authors.
It's not unusual for HIV patients to take these
cholesterol-lowering drugs, because the medications commonly used
to combat HIV can cause cholesterol levels to skyrocket.
Scientists have wondered if statins' anti-inflammatory
properties might have benefits for HIV patients besides reducing
the risk of cardiovascular disease. In the new study, which was
funded by the National Institutes of Health, researchers recruited
24 participants to randomly take either a high dose of Lipitor
(atorvastatin) or a placebo.
The participants took their pills for eight weeks, stopped for
several weeks, and then took the other kind of pills. The patients
took no AIDS medications, and their cholesterol levels weren't high
enough to require taking statins. Neither group knew which pills
they were taking.
The findings were recently published online in the
Journal of Infectious Diseases. The drugs didn't affect levels of HIV in the 22 patients who remained in the study, but the medications did appear to curb their immune systems, reducing the inflammatory response.
Inflammation caused by the immune system is associated with HIV
progression and death. "Persistent inflammation in patients with
HIV, especially those on HIV treatment, has been associated with a
worse clinical outcome. The cause of this inflammation remains
unknown," said Andrew Carr, a professor of medicine at the
University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, who wrote a
commentary accompanying the study.
Is it feasible to give cholesterol-lowering drugs to HIV
patients? They're definitely inexpensive, Agan said. And the side
effects they cause may be mild and go away as time passes.
What comes next?
"For doctors, we should be studying the effects of statins over longer periods in patients with treated HIV disease whose virus is well-controlled but who still have excess inflammation to see if the anti-inflammatory effect of statins is still observed," said Carr. "If so, we would then need to determine if this anti-inflammatory effect improved health outcomes, which would require a long and very large study."
For now, both doctors said, physicians shouldn't change how they
prescribe anti-cholesterol drugs.
The American Heart Association has more on
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.