New Delhi. India should phase out the use of stavudine, the most common AIDS drug, because of long term, irreversible side effects in HIV patients including wasting and a nerve disorder, said Dr KK Aggarwal President, Heart Care Foundation of India, Dr S C Sharma and Dr Nalin Nag both HIV /AIDS experts, in a joint statement.
Stavudine, also known as d4T, is marketed as Zerit by U.S. drug maker Bristol Myers Squibb Co. Generic versions are made by Cipla Ltd, Aurobindo Pharma Ltd and Strides Arcolab Ltd, all of India.
Stavudine, is used as first line therapy, is relatively cheap and easy to use. But it causes a nerve disorder leading to numbness and burning pain in the hands and feet, and loss of body fat known as lipoatrophy or wasting, conditions that are disabling and disfiguring.
The experts recommended that doctors should progressively phase out the use of stavudine as a preferred first line therapy option and move to less toxic alternatives such as zidovudine (AZT) or tenofovir (TDF). These are equally effective alternatives. In India more than half are on a regimen containing stavudine.
Talking about other WHO recommendations the experts said that WHO has now recommended that people with HIV, including pregnant women, should start taking AIDS drugs earlier to live a longer and healthier life. For the first time WHO advised HIV positive women and their babies to take the drugs while breastfeeding to prevent mother to child transmission of the virus that causes AIDS.