Treatment of hyperlipidemia in HIV-positive patients

Sandra M. Geletko and Alicia R. Zuwallack
[Am J Health-Syst Pharm 58(07):607-614, 2001. (c) 2001 ASHP, Inc.]

Hyperlipidemia is common in HIV-infected patients receiving antiretroviral therapy, especially protease inhibitors and stavudine.

The recommendations of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) may not entirely apply to HIV-infected patients. The pathogenesis of hyperlipidemia in these patients may make them refractory to traditional pharmacotherapy, and NCEP’s emphasis on diet and exercise may be unrealistic. Other factors that may complicate treatment of hyperlipidemia include metabolism of many antiretroviral drugs by the cytochrome P-450 isoenzyme system, polypharmacy, and drug-food interactions. A patient’s cardiac risk should first be assessed.

Nonpharmacologic measures, such as a low-fat diet, weight reduction, and exercise, should be considered. Drug therapy is indicated for patients with familial combined hyperlipidemia that is associated with atherogenesis and for patients with triglyceride concentrations exceeding 1000 mg/dL. Drug therapy for hyperlipidemia involves niacin and statins, in addition to fibric acid derivatives and probucol. Switching among antiretroviral agents when one is found to cause hyperlipidemia should be done cautiously because of the risk for viral rebound and disease progression. NCEP guidelines recommend monitoring low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol levels four to six weeks after the start of lipid-lowering therapy and then at three months; more frequent monitoring may be necessary in HIV-infected patients.

The treatment of hyperlipidemia in HIV-infected patients is complicated by their need for antiretroviral drugs, which can themselves contribute to lipid disorders.

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