In today’s world, people with HIV can live longer, healthier lives as long as they are not plagued with cardiovascular problems, such as a heart attack.
The latest complication to arise from antiretroviral drugs is cardiovascular problems, which is becoming a major challenge for physicians. Antiretroviral drugs are utilized to prolong the patient’s lives and they do, as long they do not have a heart attack.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins and collaborators are searching high and low for a consistent method to prevent strokes and heart attacks in people with HIV. Prescribing HIV patients a daily lipid-lowering drug could very well be the answer, even in those that do exhibit high blood pressure or high cholesterol.The National Institutes of Health (NIH) wanted to test this theory, so they reached out to 100 health facilities, academic centers and hospitals worldwide, including Johns Hopkins Medicine and the University of Maryland, both in Baltimore, to partake in a study to determine whether pitavastatin, a member of the medication class of statins, would prevent heart problems in HIV patients.
Pitavastatin has been deemed safe to use in conjunction with HIV drugs. Some physicians had already begun prescribing pitavastatin to their healthy patients with HIV, presuming it would aid in keeping cholesterol level to a minimum and lowering the risk of HIV-related inflammation that can cause plaque to buildup in the blood vessels.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, said there was currently no scientific evidence that pitavastatin actually works in healthy HIV patients.
The Randomized Trial to Prevent Vascular Events (REPRIEVE) in HIV will follow HIV patients over an average 4-year period. The patients will visit a participating facility several times a year for tests and screening for heart disease.
Hopkins already has nearly 36 people, who have agreed to volunteer for the study and hopes to increase number to 75-100.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2015, there were 39,513 new HIV cases recorded in the United States and 1,348 in Maryland. For years, new HIV cases have been declining in Maryland. However, the infection rates are among the highest in the nation.
In the United States, an estimated 6,700 people die from AIDS and HIV each year, Top 10 killer for people from 25 to 44 years of age. Most people with HIV die from secondary complications like, infections, heart attacks and cancers.
Risk of a heart attack in HIV patients is two times higher than healthy people. The virus still has this affect, even though it is suppressed by medications.
Researchers believe the HIH study could demonstrate healthful effects of cholesterol drugs.
“Everyone on a statin? At this point I don’t think so,” said Dr. Michael Horberg, director of HIV/AIDS at Kaiser Permanente. “But it’s great we’re talking about it because in the 1990s when [an HIV] patient came in and they were smoking, we didn’t even bother worrying about it because their life expectancy wasn’t long enough. Now, we get to worry about all these things.”