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AIDS Drugs Said Not to Prompt Early Births

June 17, 2002|From Associated Press

Pregnant women with HIV can safely take AIDS drugs without risk of having a premature baby or one with neurological problems, a study found.

The study did find a slightly increased risk--from 1% to 2%--of babies with the lowest birth weights, or less than 3.3 pounds, if the drugs included what are known as protease inhibitors.

The analysis was published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine and was done by Dr. Ruth E. Tuomala of Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

In the United States, pregnant women are routinely given AIDS drugs such as AZT because the medicines have been found to be powerfully effective at controlling the mother's disease and preventing the virus from being passed on to the baby.

The analysis was prompted by two small European studies with a total of 66 patients that found that pregnant women on AIDS drug combinations have a one-third higher risk of premature delivery.

The new analysis involved seven U.S. studies that looked at 2,123 women on HIV drugs, including 137 whose "cocktail" included protease inhibitors. For comparison, the analysis also looked at 1,143 babies whose HIV-infected mothers did not get any such drugs because the medications had not yet been approved for pregnant women.

Very low birth weight raises a baby's risk of death and disabling medical problems.

But women who took a protease inhibitor were likely to be sicker than those who were given a drug combination without it, so the chance of having a tiny baby could have been caused by the mothers' sickness, Tuomala said.

"Any small increase in the risk of low birth weight is likely to be outweighed by the substantial benefits of treatment with protease inhibitors for both the mother and the infant," she said.

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