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Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2003 Aug;22(2):89-99.

Hyperlipidaemia in patients with HIV-1 infection receiving highly active antiretroviral therapy: epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical course and management.

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  • 1Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Section of Infectious Diseases, University of Bologna Alma Mater Studiorum, S. Orsola Hospital, Via G. Massarenti 11, Bologna 40138, Italy.


A wide range of abnormalities of lipid metabolism have been recently described in HIV-infected patients receiving a protease inhibitor (PI)-based highly active antiretroviral therapy, including hypertriglyceridaemia and hypercholesterolaemia. The increase of plasma lipid concentrations may involve up to 70-80% of HIV-positive subjects treated with a PI-containing regimen and are frequently (but not always) associated with the fat redistribution or the lipodystrophy syndrome. Multiple pathogenetic mechanisms by which antiretroviral agents lead to dyslipidaemia have been hypothesized, but they are still controversial. The potential clinicopathological consequences of HIV-associated hyperlipidaemia are not completely known, but several anecdotal observations report an increased risk of premature coronary artery diseases in young HIV-positive individuals receiving PIs, besides peripheral atherosclerosis and acute pancreatitis. A limited-to-significant improvement of increased triglyceride and cholesterol plasma levels was described in patients who replaced PIs with nevirapine, efavirenz or abacavir, but the risks of long-term toxicity and virological relapse of this treatment switching are not completely defined. A hypolipidaemic diet and regular physical exercise may act favorably on dyslipidaemia, but pharmacological therapy becomes necessary when hyperlipidaemia is severe or persists for a long time. The choice of hypolipidaemic drugs is problematic because of potential pharmacological interactions with antiretroviral compounds and other antimicrobial agents, associated with an increased risk of toxicity and intolerance. Statins are considered the first-line therapy for the PI-related hypercholesterolaemia, while fibrates are the cornerstone of drug therapy when predominant hypertriglyceridaemia is of concern.

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