Special care advised for HIV-infected patients with diabetes



– Research suggests that HIV-positive people who take the latest generations of AIDS medications are living almost as long as everyone else. But they still face special medical challenges, and an endocrinologist urged colleagues to adjust their approaches to diabetes in these patients.

“The HIV population is indeed aging, diabetes is very common, and there are some unique pathophysiologic and management considerations,” said Todd T. Brown, MD, PhD, of Johns Hopkins Medicine, Baltimore, in a presentation at the annual scientific sessions of the American Diabetes Association.

It’s not just a matter of subbing in an alternate drug here or there. When it comes to diabetes, patients with HIV require significant adjustments to diagnosis and treatment, Dr. Brown said.

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In terms of diagnosis, treatment guidelines approved by the Infectious Diseases Society of America and ADA recommend that all HIV-positive patients be tested for diabetes before they begin taking antiretroviral therapy. Then, the guidelines suggest, they should be tested 4-6 weeks after initiation of therapy, and every 6-12 months going forward.

“It’s a bit of overkill to go every 6 months,” said Dr. Brown, who prefers an annual testing approach. He added that research has suggested that the 2-hour postload glucose test is more sensitive than the fasting glucose test in some HIV-positive populations. However, he believes that it’s generally fine to give a fasting glucose test before initiation of therapy – and on an annual basis afterward – rather than the more cumbersome postload test.

Still, he said, the postload test may be appropriate in a patient with impaired glucose tolerance “if you really want to make the diagnosis, and especially if you’ll change your treatment based on it.”

Ongoing treatment of HIV-positive patients also presents unique challenges, he said. For one, antiretroviral therapy seems to affect glucose metabolism and body fat, he said, and findings from a 2016 study suggest HIV-positive people who begin antiretroviral therapy face a higher risk of developing diabetes after weight gain (J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2016 Oct 1;73[2]:228-36).

One option is to switch patients to integrase inhibitors, but findings from a 2017 study suggested that this may also lead to more weight gain, Dr. Brown said.

“This has been an evolving story,” he said. “The clinical consequences of this are unclear. This is a topic that’s being hotly investigated now in the HIV health world” (JAIDS. 2017 Dec 15;76[5]:527-31).

As for other diabetes management issues, Dr. Brown noted that hemoglobin A1c tests appear to underestimate glycemia in HIV-infected patients. He suggested that goal HbA1c levels should be lower in diabetic patients with HIV, especially those with CD4+ counts under 500 cells /mm3 and/or mean cell volume over 100 fL.

Research suggests that lifestyle changes seem to work well in HIV-positive patients, he said, and metformin is the ideal first-line drug treatment just as in the HIV-negative population. “It’s a good drug. We all love it,” he said. “It may improve lipohypertrophy and coronary plaque.”

He added that proteinuria and neuropathy are more common in HIV-positive patients with diabetes. He said levels of neuropathy and nephropathy could be related to AIDS drugs.

On the medication front, Dr. Brown cautioned about certain drugs in HIV-positive patients: The HIV drug dolutegravir increases metformin concentrations by about 80%, he said, and there are concerns about bone and cardiac health in HIV-positive patients who take the diabetes medications known as thiazolidinediones (glitazones).

He added that there are sparse data about the use of several types of diabetes drugs – DPP IV inhibitors, GLP-1 receptor agonists, and SGLT2 inhibitors – in HIV-positive patients.

Dr. Brown discloses consulting for Gilead Sciences, ViiV, BMS, Merck, Theratechnologies, and EMD Serono.

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