-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
MONDAY, Jan. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Pregnant women with HIV can
prevent passing the AIDS-causing virus to their babies by taking
antiretroviral drugs, but there remains a possibility that some of
these medications might cause birth defects, such as cleft lip and
palate, according to a new study.
Antiretroviral drugs have been found to reduce the risk of
mothers passing HIV on to their children from between 15 and 25
percent to less than 1 percent. These drugs, however, are still
under investigation and not considered safe during pregnancy, the
study authors noted.
To analyze the possible association between antiretroviral drugs
and birth defects, Vassiliki Cartsos, an associate professor and
director of graduate orthodontics at Tufts University School of
Dental Medicine in Boston, and colleagues examined five years of
adverse events compiled by the U.S. Food and Drug
Their findings are published in the January issue of
Cleft Palate--Craniofacial Journal.
The investigators found seven antiretroviral drugs were
associated with 26 incidents of cleft lip and palate. However, the
authors noted, uncovering an association does not prove a
In other words, although the study findings should serve as a
red flag, the researchers pointed out that the findings do not
confirm that the antiretroviral drugs caused the birth defects.
Those drugs included lamivudine (Epivir); efavirenz (known as
EFV); nelfinavir (Viracept); and the combination of abacavir
(Ziagen), sulfate, lamivudine and zidovudine (Retrovir).
The study authors concluded in a journal news release that more
research is needed to determine if there is a link between
antiretroviral drugs and cleft lip and palate, a congenital
malformation believed to have several causes, including genetic and
The World Health Organization has more about
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