Back Side Effects - HIV Liver, Kidney & Bone Toxicity

Liver, Kidney & Bone Toxicity

Truvada PrEP Causes Only Minimal Bone Loss, Raltegravir Easier on Bones than PIs

Use of tenofovir/emtricitabine (Truvada) for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) was associated with a small decrease in bone mineral density that stabilized after the first 6 months, according to study findings reported in the April 23 edition of Clinical Infectious Diseases. Related research showed that HIV-positive people starting an antiretroviral regimen containing the integrase inhibitor raltegravir (Isentress) experienced less bone loss than those taking protease inhibitors.


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IDWeek 2014: Earlier Treatment, NNRTI Use Predict Slower HIV Rebound After Stopping ART

HIV viral load usually begins to rise again within 4 to 8 weeks after stopping antiretroviral therapy (ART), though starting treatment earlier in the course of infection and using a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) may delay viral rebound, according to study findings presented at IDWeek 2014 last week in Philadelphia.


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NIH Offers Free Database of Drugs Associated with Liver Injury

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) last week launched the new LiverTox database of drugs known to have the potential to cause liver toxicity -- the leading cause of acute liver failure in the U.S. In addition to prescription drugs, it also includes over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies, and supplements. A number of antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV appear on the list. alt

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IDWeek 2014: Longer Use, Age, Low Body Weight Raise Risk of Tenofovir Kidney Problems

Abnormal kidney biomarkers are common but rarely progress to serious kidney dysfunction in HIV positive people taking tenofovir, and longer duration of use, older age, and having diabetes or high blood pressure raise the risk, researchers reported at IDWeek 2014 last week in Philadelphia. A related study found that people with low body weight experienced progressive kidney function decline while taking tenofovir.


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CROI 2012: ART Liver Toxicity is Lower with Modern Regimens, but Still a Risk for HIV/HCV Coinfected

Liver toxicity related to antiretroviral therapy (ART) has become less common in recent years thanks to development of better tolerated drugs and improved understanding of how to use them. But HIV positive people coinfected with hepatitis C remain at higher risk, researchers reported at the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI 2012) this month in Seattle.alt

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HIV Positive Stimulant Users Benefit from Antiretroviral Therapy

People with HIV who use methamphetamine or other stimulant drugs do well on antiretroviral therapy (ART) and appear not to be at greater risk than non-users for AIDS-related or all-cause death overall, but those who use stimulants more than half the time did have a higher risk of progression to AIDS or death, according to a study published in the September 30 Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.


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UCSF Answers Patient and Provider Questions about Tenofovir Kidney Study

The University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) has issued a set of frequently asked question and answers for patients and clinicians regarding a study in this week's issue of AIDS finding a link between tenofovir (Viread, also in the Truvada and Atripla combination pills) and kidney impairment.alt

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ICAAC 2013: Researchers Present Data on New NNRTIs AIC292 and MK-1439

A pair of next-generation HIV non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs) demonstrated promising activity in early studies, researchers reported last week at the 53rd Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC 2013) in Denver. AIC292 showed good antiviral activity in early laboratory, animal and human studies. MK-1439, now in Phase 2b, is likely to interact with ritonavir, but not tenofovir.


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Large Study Finds Tenofovir Linked to Increased Kidney Risk

HIV positive people who took tenofovir (Viread, also in the Truvada and Atripla combination pills) were more likely to show signs of impaired kidney function, according to an observational study of more than 10,000 people described in the February 4, 2012, advance online edition of AIDS. alt

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ICAAC 2013: Dolutegravir Shows Good Efficacy Across Patient Groups

The new integrase inhibitor dolutegravir (Tivicay) worked better than boosted darunavir for people starting HIV treatment for the first time, researchers reported at the 53rd Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC 2013) last week in Denver. Another study found that dolutegravir worked well across sex, race/ethnicity, and age groups.


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IDSA 2011: Tenofovir Not Linked to Increased Kidney Risk in HIV+ Veterans Study

Use of tenofovir (Viread, also in the Truvada and Atripla coformulations) was not associated with a higher risk of kidney toxicity compared with other antiretroviral agents, according to a study presented at the 49th Annual Meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA 2011) last month in Boston.

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ICAAC 2013: New Tenofovir Formulation Has Less Effect on Kidneys and Bones

Tenofovir alafenamide (TAF), a new formulation that reaches higher levels in cells but allows for lower dosing, was as effective as the current tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) formulation but had less impact on markers of kidney function and bone turnover, researchers reported at the 53rd Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC 2013) this week in Denver.


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ICAAC 2011: Cobicistat Matches Ritonavir as Booster, Studies Clarify Effects on Kidney Function

The experimental pharmacoenhancing agent cobicistat continues to work as well as ritonavir for boosting other antiretroviral drugs, according to findings published in the September 24, 2011, issue of AIDS.

In addition, 2 studies presented this week at the 51st Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC 2011) shed further light on cobicistat's impact on the kidneys, indicating that it reduces estimated but not actual glomerular filtration rate (GFR) by altering activity in the proximal renal tubules.alt

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IAS 2013: Kidney Problems Linked to Tenofovir Use, Improve with Switch to Abacavir

Indian people with HIV who took tenofovir had a higher rate of kidney impairment than westerners, according to a study presented at the 7th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention (IAS 2013) this month in Kuala Lumpur. A related study found that switching from tenofovir to abacavir reduced kidney risk.


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Meta-analysis Finds Tenofovir Linked to Modest Kidney Impairment, No Increase in Bone Fractures

Use of tenofovir (Viread, also in the Truvada and Atripla combination pills) was found to be associated with statistically significant loss of kidney function in a systematic review and meta-analysis, but this was considered to have only a modest clinical impact, researchers reported in the September 15, 2010 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases. This review also found no link between tenofovir and bone fractures. Researchers concluded that tenofovir use does not need to be limited in areas where kidney function cannot be adequately monitored.

Bone Loss and Fracture Risk are 'Modest' among HIV+ People, Linked to Tenofovir, Smoking, and HCV

Continued bone loss among HIV positive men with osteopenia was modest overall, but about 25% of those taking tenofovir (Viread, also in 4 antiretroviral coformulations) experienced significant loss, according to a recent study. A related meta-analysis found that HIV infection is associated with a modest likelihood of new fractures, with smoking and hepatitis C virus (HCV) coinfection further increasing the risk.


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Antiretroviral Therapy Is Not Responsible for Unexplained Liver Disease in HIV Patients without Viral Hepatitis Coinfection

Since illness and deaths due to opportunistic infections have fallen dramatically in the era of effective antiretroviral therapy (ART), liver disease has become a major cause of morbidity and mortality in people with HIV. In many cases, this is associated with chronic hepatitis B or C virus (HBV, HCV) coinfection or heavy alcohol consumption, but some individuals have unexplained, or "cryptogenic," liver disease. Another potential cause of liver problems in people with HIV is hepatotoxic side effects of antiretroviral treatment. But a recent study by researchers at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in the U.K. did not observe this association, according to a letter to the editor in the April 2009 Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.


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Tenofovir, Protease Inhibitors Linked to Kidney Impairment

Use of tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) is associated with reduced kidney function, though for most people the change is small, does not progress with continued exposure, and improves after stopping the drug, according to several recently published studies. Some analyses found that certain HIV protease inhibitors can also cause kidney problems.


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Antiretroviral Treatment Interruption Is Associated with Evidence of Kidney Dysfunction in SMART Study

Evidence continues to accumulate showing that antiretroviral treatment interruption, as evaluated in the large SMART trial, is a potentially risky strategy. A new study, published in the January 2, 2009 issue of AIDS, sheds further light on kidney dysfunction in this setting.

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ICAAC 2012: Atazanavir Linked to Kidney Stones in People with HIV

HIV positive people taking ritonavir-boosted atazanavir (Reyataz) are more likely to develop kidney stones than those using other antiretroviral medications, according to study data presented at the recent 52nd Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC 2012) in San Francisco and published in the November 1, 2012 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases. Another study suggested that darunavir (Prezista) may also raise the risk.alt

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ICAAC 2008: Studies Look at Long-term Efficacy Safety of Tenofovir (Viread/Truvada/Atripla), including Kidney Toxicity and Bone Loss

Tenofovir (Viread) is among the most widely prescribed antiretroviral drugs, and is a component of the Truvada (tenofovir/emtricitabine) and Atripla (tenofovir/emtricitabine/ efavirenz) fixed-dose combination pills. Several presentations last month at the 48th International Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC 2008) provided new data on tenofovir's long-term efficacy and safety, in particular the occurrence of kidney and bone problems, which have been attributed to tenofovir in some previous studies.

Atripla Efficacy and Side Effects

In study AI26607, participants on stable antiretroviral therapy with HIV suppression < 200 cells/mm3 for at least 3 months were randomly assigned to stay on their current HAART regimen (n = 97) or switch to Atripla (n = 203), which provides a full NNRTI-based antiretroviral regimen in a single once-daily pill.

Most patients (88%) were men, about two-thirds were white, and the mean age was 43 years. The median baseline CD4 count was about 540 cells/mm3 and 96% had HIV RNA < 50 copies/mL.


• At 48 weeks in an intent-to-treat TLOVR analysis, 87% of patients who switched to Atripla and 85% who stayed on their current regimen maintained HIV RNA < 50 copies/mL.
• Participants who switched from a NNRTI-based regimen were more liked to maintain viral suppression than those who switched from a protease inhibitor (PI)-based regimen (92% vs 83%).
• Discontinuation rates were similar for those who switched to Atripla and those who stayed on their baseline regimen.
• Adverse event rates were significantly higher in the Atripla arm (5% vs 1%), largely due to efavirenz-related neuropsychiatric symptoms, most of which were mild and temporary.
• At 48 weeks, estimated GFR (glomerular filtration rate, a measure of kidney function) was unchanged from baseline in both arms.
• Fasting triglyceride levels declined more in the Atripla arm (median -20 vs -3 mg/dL), almost entirely attributable to those who switched from PI-based regimens.
• Excellent adherence (96% or better) was reported in both arms.
• Participants taking Atripla were more likely to report that their regimen was convenient (97% vs 81%).

In conclusion, the investigators wrote, "High and comparable rates of virologic suppression were maintained with [efavirenz/emtricitabine/tenofovir] vs [baseline regimen], regardless of type of prior antiretroviral therapy."

"Mild, transient nervous system symptoms occurred with [efavirenz/emtricitabine/tenofovir], particularly with prior PI-based antiretroviral therapy," they added.

Orlando Immunology Center, Orlando, FL; Denver Infectious Disease Consultants, Denver, CO; Gilead Sciences, Inc., Foster City, CA; Bristol-Myers Squibb, Princeton, NJ.

Long-term Atripla

In Gilead's Study 934, participants starting antiretroviral therapy for the first time were randomly assigned to receive Truvada or the Combivir (zidovudine/lamivudine) coformulation pill, both in combination with efavirenz (Sustiva). After 144 weeks, 286 patients from both arms switched to the Atripla pill and continued follow-up.

Most participants in the extension study (88%) were men, 65% were white, the mean age was 40 years, the median CD4 count was 535 cells/mm3, and about 95% had HIV RNA < 50 copies/mL.


• 48 weeks after switching to Atripla, 94% of patients originally assigned to Truvada and 90% originally assigned to Combivir maintained viral suppression < 50 copies/mL in a missing=failure analysis.
• Mean CD4 counts increased by 1 and 21 cells/mm3, respectively.
• Patients who switched from Combivir were more likely to experience adverse events (those switching from Truvada were already taking the same drugs in a different formulation).
• Serum creatinine, serum phosphorous, and estimated GFR (all measures of kidney function) remained stable in both arms.
• Total cholesterol rose by 6 mg/dL in the Truvada-to-Atripla arm and fell by 9 mg/dL in the Combivir-to-Atripla arm.
• LDL ("bad") cholesterol remained unchanged in the Truvada-to-Atripla arm and fell by 6 mg/dL in the Combivir-to-Atripla arm.
• Fasting triglycerides fell by 3 and 21 mg/dL, respectively.
• Total limb fat did not change significantly in either arm.

"Switching Truvada or Combivir + efavirenz to a single tablet once-daily regimen of [efavirenz/emtricitabine/tenofovir] was well-tolerated and resulted in maintenance of virologic suppression through 48 weeks," the researchers concluded.

However, they added, "In patients on Combivir + efavirenz for 3 years, switching to Atripla did not significantly improve limb fat after 48 weeks."

Orlando Immunology Ctr., Orlando, FL; Chelsea & Westminster Hosp, London, UK; Johns Hopkins Univ, Baltimore, MD; Univ Hosp La Paz, Madrid, Spain; Gilead Sciences, Foster City, CA.

Bone Loss

Another research team looked at changes in bone mineral density among patients taking tenofovir/emtricitabine. Studies have shown that people with HIV have an elevated risk of bone loss (osteopenia and the more serious osteoporosis), but the reasons for this are not fully understood.

The investigators hypothesized that tenofovir might contribute to abnormal calcium metabolism via secondary hyperparathyroidism, or excess production of parathyroid hormone, which regulates calcium and phosphate levels.

In this prospective cross-sectional study, they reviewed medical records and interviewed 51 HIV positive men on HAART with normal kidney function (GFR > 60) and normal serum calcium levels; 34 were taking antiretroviral regimens containing tenofovir plus emtricitabine (Emtriva; also in the Truvada and Atripla pills).

Parathyroid hormone levels were measured using the Immulite 2000 assay with an upper limit of normal (ULN) of 65 pg/mL, and compared in patients taking or not taking tenofovir. Most participants (80%) were white, the mean age was 49 years, the mean duration of HIV infection was 12 years, the median CD4 count was 443 cells/mm3, and 75% had undetectable HIV RNA. Tenofovir recipients and those not taking tenofovir did not differ with respect to age, duration of infection, body mass index, CD4 count, viral load, or baseline GFR.


• 82% of participants had suboptimal vitamin D levels, but the likelihood was similar in both tenofovir recipients and non-recipients.
• Overall, parathyroid hormone levels were higher in tenofovir recipients than in people taking non-tenofovir-containing regimens.
• Among men with low vitamin D levels, the mean parathyroid hormone level was significantly higher in those taking tenofovir (80 vs 55 pg/mL; P = 0.02).
• Within the low vitamin D group, tenofovir recipients were more likely than non-recipients to have an above-normal parathyroid hormone level (39% vs 7%; P = 0.036).
• Among tenofovir recipients, parathyroid hormone levels were far higher in those with low versus sufficient vitamin D (87 vs 43 pg/mL; P = 0.002).

• No patients with an optimal vitamin D level had elevated parathyroid hormone.

Based on these findings, the investigators concluded, "[Tenofovir/emtricitabine] appears to be associated with [secondary hyperparathyroidism] in patients with low vitamin D, but not in patients with sufficient vitamin D, suggesting that adequate doses of vitamin D supplements along with tenofovir may prevent [secondary hyperparathyroidism], a serious condition linked to bone loss and cardiovascular disease."

They suggested that tenofovir in the setting of low vitamin D may decrease whole-body calcium levels, triggering increased parathyroid hormone production and increased calcium resorption, leading to reduced bone mineral density.

They recommended that patients taking tenofovir should have their vitamin D and parathyroid hormone levels checked, and urged further research to investigate whether prophylactic use of vitamin D and calcium supplements might prevent increases in parathyroid hormone and preserve bone in this population.

Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY.

Kidney Function

Finally, 2 reports looked at kidney (renal) dysfunction in people taking tenofovir. The drug has not been associated with kidney dysfunction in clinical trials, but some observational studies indicate that certain susceptible individuals (for example, those with pre-existing kidney disease) may experience tenofovir-related kidney toxicity. This has mostly been seen in highly treatment-experienced patients.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins assessed whether tenofovir was associated with renal dysfunction in patients starting HAART for the first time. They compared all treatment-naive patients with an estimated GFR > 50 ml/min/1.73m2 (by MDRD) who started either tenofovir (n=201) or alternative nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) (n=231) after January 2002, analyzing the time to 25% and 50% decline in GFR.

About 60% of participants were men, about 75% were black (a group with a higher rate of HIV-associate kidney disease), the mean age was 40 years, and the mean CD4 count was about 250 cells/mm3. Baseline GFR was similar in both groups (101 vs 110), and similar proportions had pre-existing hypertension (25%) and diabetes (5%).


• A modest decline in GFR was observed among patients starting both tenofovir and alterative NRTIs as part of first-line therapy.

• There were no significant differences in percentages of patients who experienced a 25% decline in renal function after 1 year (23.4% in the tenofovir arm vs 20.2% in the alternative-NRTI arm; P = 0.51) or after 2 years (30.1% vs 28.4%, respectivelyl P = 0.59).

• Likewise, there were no differences in proportions with a 50% decline in renal function after 1 year (4.7% taking tenofovir, 5.5% taking other NRTIs; P = 0.49) or after 2 years (5.1% vs 6.9%, respectively; P = 0.65).

• There remained no differences between the tenofovir and alternative-NRTI groups in 25% or 50% kidney function decline after adjusting for age, race, baseline GFR, baseline CD4 cell count, use of a ritonavir-boosted PI vs a NNRTI, presence of diabetes, or hypertension.

• However, older age, lower CD4 count, and hypertension were each associated with GFR decline independent of tenofovir use (all P < 0.05).

• There was a statistical interaction between tenofovir and boosted PI use, yielding a 2.1-fold greater risk of a 50% decline in GFR compared with use of alternative NRTIs + a boosted PI.

In conclusion, the researchers stated, "Our results emphasize the importance of having a control group who receive an alternative NRTI, since a modest decline in [GFR] was observed among patients taking both tenofovir and [alternative NRTIs]."

"Our results support use of tenofovir within the initial antiretroviral therapy regimen," they concluded. "Our data also suggest that GFR should be monitored more closely in older patients, those with CD4 counts < 200 cells/mm3, when hypertension is present, and when a [ritonavir-boosted PI] is used.'"

Johns Hopkins Univ. School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD.

In a related report, researchers in Philadelphia also compared kidney function in patients taking tenofovir with NNRTIs (n = 110) versus boosted PIs (n = 140). At baseline, study participants had been on HAART for at least 3 months. Here too, a majority were men and about two-thirds were African-American.

Overall, 3 patients changed their regimens due to renal problems. However, the investigators observed no evidence of significant changes in GFR from baseline during the first 2 years of therapy (P > 0.05). Multivariate analysis including age, sex, hypertension, diabetes, and treatment-naive or experienced status did not alter these findings.

"There was no change in creatinine clearance with either a boosted PI or NNRTI," they concluded. "Sub-analysis of the [African-American] population did show a significant difference in first year of therapy; however, these differences were not statistically different over the second year of treatment."

Jefferson Med. College, Philadelphia, PA; Drexel Univ. College of Med., Philadelphia, PA.



E DeJesus, B Young, J Flaherty, and others. Simplification of Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) with Efavirenz (EFV)/Emtricitabine (FTC)/Tenofovir DF (TDF) Single-Tablet-Regimen vs. Continued Unmodified ART in Virologically-Suppressed, HIV-1-Infected Patients. 48th International Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC 2008). Washington, DC. October 25-28, 2008. Abstract H-1234.

E. DeJesus, A Pozniak, J Gallant, and others. The 48-Week Efficacy and Safety of Switching to Fixed-Dose Efavirenz/Emtricitabine/Tenofovir DF in HIV-1-Infected Patients Receiving HAART. 48th International Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC 2008). Washington, DC. October 25-28, 2008. Abstract H-1235.

K Childs, S Fishman, K Bateman, and others. Should Vitamin D Be Prescribed with Tenofovir/FTC? 48th International Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC 2008). Washington, DC. October 25-28, 2008. Abstract H-2300.

R Moore and J Gallant. Renal Function after Use of Tenofovir as Part of the Initial ART Regimen. 48th International Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC 2008). Washington, DC. October 25-28, 2008. Abstract H-2297.

WR Short, P Solari, and B Kaplan. Comparison of Renal Function on NNRTI vs. Boosted PI based Tenofovir based Regimens. 48th International Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC 2008). Washington, DC. October 25-28, 2008. Abstract H-2298.