Major HIV drug should be phased out: WHO

Side effects include wasting and a nerve disorder

The most widespread antiretroviral drug, Stavudine, should be phased out due to concerns over “long-term, irreversible” side effects in HIV patients that include wasting and a nerve disorder, according to the World Health Organization. What’s more, for the first time, the WHO has advised HIV-positive women and their babies to take antiretroviral drugs while breastfeeding to help stop mother-to-child transmission of the virus. In other major changes to its guidelines, the WHO recommended that people with HIV, even pregnant women, should start taking antiretroviral drugs earlier. Stavudine is available in developing countries as a first-line therapy, and is cheap and easy to use, Reuters reports, but causes a nerve disorder that can lead to numbness, burning pain in the hands and feet, as well as the loss of body fat, conditions that can be “disabling and disfiguring.” According to the WHO, countries should phase out Stavudine and use less toxic alternatives, which are “equally effective,” like Zidovudine or Tenofovir. Over 4 million people around the world take antiretrovirals; of those, about half take Stavudine


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