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Conflicting Data for Abacavir Increased Heart Attack Risk

The FDA has reported conflicting data in studies to find a connection between abacavir use and increased heart attack risks. When used with other antiretroviral medications, abacavir is used as a treatment for HIV-1. It is not a cure for HIV or AIDs, nor will it totally prevent spreading of the virus. The medication decreases a patient’s chances of developing AIDS and other HIV-related complications. Abacavir works by preventing HIV cells from multiplying. Brand names of the medication include Ziagen, Trizivir, and Epzicom.

In randomized clinical trials conducted by the FDA, analysis did not show a statistically significant raise in heart attack risk. In studies reviewed by the FDA only 0.48% of patients taking abacavir experienced heart attacks, compared to 0.46% in patients not taking abacavir. The studies included almost 10,000 patients. Pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline also reported no findings of increased risk association.

However, a report from the Data Collection on Adverse Events of Anti-HIV Drugs reported a 70% increased risk of heart attack in patients who were currently on the drug. Researchers in Denmark and a SMART study have also confirmed an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Though the claim that abacavir may cause increased heart attack risk is still under debate, there are other rare but serious side effects associated with abacavir. There have been reports of fatal allergic reactions, liver complications, and fat redistribution  Before a doctor prescribes abacavir, they may run tests to identify high risk patients and evaluate possible alternative treatments.

The FDA has suggested that medical professionals continue prescribing abacavir and that patients currently taking abacavir should not stop taking the medication without consulting their doctors. Because medical trials have been inconclusive, patients with existing risk for heart disease should take precautions when taking the medication.

Both doctors and patients should report any adverse side effects or events to the FDA’s MedWatch program.