In patients infected by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), a diabetes drug may have benefits which go beyond lowering blood sugar. Researchers have found that the medicine also works to reduce heart disease and stroke risk in HIV patients.
People with HIV have an elevated risk of heart attacks and diabetes, and problems with glucose, insulin and cholesterol. Part of what drives that risk is chronic inflammation.
In the new study, the researchers found that the diabetes drug sitagliptin (brand name Januvia) both improved metabolism and reduced inflammation in HIV-positive adults taking antiretroviral therapy.
"With sitagliptin, sugar levels fell, and several markers of immune activation and inflammation were reduced, indicating the drug may provide long-term benefits for these patients' hearts, bones and livers," said principal investigator Kevin Yarasheski, professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
The study involved 36 HIV patients, aged 18-65, who were on antiretroviral therapy and whose immune status was stable.
At the start of the study, the researchers measured the participants' glucose levels, insulin sensitivity, lipid levels, immune cell counts, several markers of inflammation and other indicators of health.
Half of the study participants then took sitagliptin for eight weeks, and the others received a placebo. Meanwhile, everyone in the study continued with antiretroviral therapy.
"We wanted to know whether this drug would improve patients' blood-sugar problems and reduce the immune markers that we believe are indicators that something is activating the immune system and causing inflammation," Yarasheski said.
"And that is what we found," he noted.
The findings were published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism