Management of antiretroviral drug toxicity

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Purpose of review

With the emergence of very potent antiretroviral regimens, the major limitation to the success of treatment is now the tolerability of drugs, which can ultimately affect adherence. It is important, therefore, to review the current understanding on antiretroviral drug toxicity, and examine key recent data that can inform the successful avoidance or management of such toxicities.

Recent findings

A common theme of recent research has focussed on the genetic predisposition to important immediate side-effects, such as abacavir hypersensitivity, nevirapine hepatotoxicity, efavirenz neurotoxicity and hyperbilirubinemia with atazanavir. Long-term toxicities such as body-composition changes and hyperlipidemia have been more closely linked to thymidine analogues and certain protease inhibitors. The management of these toxicities has also been clarified by studies addressing switching antiretroviral drugs or specific treatments for metabolic syndromes.


Recent data emphasize the need for the prevention of antiretroviral toxicity by the avoidance of some drugs in certain genetically predisposed populations or by the avoidance of entire classes if possible. In addition, recent studies emphasize the importance of ongoing research to determine the emergence of additional toxicities, as new drugs emerge and achieve widespread use.

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