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J Antimicrob Chemother. 2005 May;55(5):612-5. Epub 2005 Mar 10.

Therapeutic approaches to combating lipoatrophy: do they work?

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  • 1National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research, University of New South Wales, Level 2, 376 Victoria St, Darlinghurst NSW 2010, Sydney, Australia.


Therapeutic strategies for combating HIV-associated lipodystrophy, and lipoatrophy in particular, have been a major focus of HIV clinical research. The initial impetus focused on protease inhibitor withdrawal strategies, which resulted in improved lipid profiles and insulin resistance but no change in subcutaneous or visceral adipose tissue. Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor withdrawal strategies, specifically withdrawal of thymidine analogues, have achieved greater success in the reversal of lipoatrophy. In particular, the MITOX extension study demonstrated a 35% improvement in limb fat over a 2 year period after a switch from a thymidine analogue to abacavir. However, recovery from lipoatrophy is a slow process, and limited access to and potential toxicities introduced by alternative therapies can limit switch strategies. The use of thiazolidinediones as agents to reverse lipoatrophy has, unfortunately, been shown to be ineffective, as have alternative therapeutic approaches with agents such as metformin, lipid-lowering agents and growth hormones. Although prevention of lipodystrophy may be the only definitive approach to combat this syndrome, the role of intermittent highly active antiretroviral therapy as a means of reducing the incidence, or slowing the development, of lipodystrophy is currently under evaluation.

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