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Drug May Cut Belly Fat in HIV Patients

Study: Experimental Drug Tesamorelin May Help Treat HIV Lipodystrophy
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 5, 2007 -- A new drug called tesamorelin may trim belly fat in HIV patients, a study shows.

The study focuses on HIV lipodystrophy -- abnormal patterns of fat buildup and fat loss in people taking drugs that target HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

HIV lipodystrophy patients typically gain fat around the waist and lose fat in the face, arms, and legs. Too much fat around the waist may make heart disease more likely.

Tesamorelin -- which is still in its experimental stages and hasn't been approved by the FDA -- may help treat HIV lipodystrophy. But the drug's long-term effects aren't clear yet.

That news appears in tomorrow's edition of The New England Journal of Medicine.

Tesamorelin Study

The researchers included Julian Falutz, MD, of Canada's Montreal General Hospital. They studied 412 HIV lipodystrophy patients with large waists.

First, the patients got high-tech body scans to map their body fat. They also took cholesterol tests and completed a survey about their body image.

Next, the patients gave themselves a shot of tesamorelin or a placebo every day for six months. They didn't know if they got tesamorelin or the placebo.

Lastly, the patients repeated the body scans, cholesterol test, and body image survey.

Less Belly Fat

Patients taking tesamorelin shed 15% of their belly fat, compared with a 5% rise in belly fat in those taking the placebo.

The tesamorelin patients also improved their cholesterol levels and boosted their body image.

But nearly half of the patients taking tesamorelin made antibodies against the drug, and six of them developed hives, notes an editorial published with the study.

Patients taking tesamorelin were more likely to quit the study over side effects, even though side effects were similar in both groups.

Studies are needed to check tesamorelin's long-term effects, note the researchers. Their study was funded by Theratechnologies, a Canadian company developing tesamorelin. Falutz and several colleagues note financial ties to Theratechnologies.

Several teams of scientists have tested various drugs that boost growth hormone, Marc Blackman, MD, observes in an editorial published with the study.

"Numerous questions remain" about the long-term use of such drugs, writes Blackman, who works in Washington, D.C., for the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

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