The common diabetes drug metformin appears to prevent progression of coronary atherosclerosis – hardening of the arteries – in people infected with HIV.
A new study of 50 patients, presented at the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, found those given daily doses of metformin had no progression of the condition over a year-long period. By comparison, people in the study who received a placebo had a 50 percent increase in clogged blood vessels over the same period.
Massachusetts General Hospital researchers who conducted the study also found patients in the study who participated in regular exercise and dietary counseling sessions also boosted their cardiovascular health significantly.
"HIV-infected patients are known to have higher rates of cardiovascular disease and elevations in traditional risk factors – such as insulin resistance, abdominal obesity, high triglyceride levels and hypertension," said lead researcher Dr. Steven Grinspoon, director of MGH’s Program in Nutritional Metabolism.
"This is the first demonstration of a therapy that is effective in preventing progression of coronary calcium in patients infected with HIV."
Metformin has long been a standard treatment for type 2 diabetes and has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.
“This study was small and needs to be confirmed in larger studies,” the study authors concluded, “but our results suggest that physicians caring for HIV patients might want to consider prescribing metformin for those with significant insulin resistance and multiple metabolic abnormalities."