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Steroid can help
reverse HIV-related wasting

Steroid can help
reverse HIV-related wasting

Oral anabolic steroid may be effective in restoring body mass lost through HIV-related wasting.

A study in the March issue of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes shows that the oral anabolic steroid oxandrolone may be effective in restoring body mass lost through HIV-related wasting syndrome, Reuters Health reports. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, treated 262 HIV-positive men who had lost 10% to 20% of their body mass with one of three doses of oxandrolone for 12 weeks or with a placebo. The men who took the steroid at any dosage gained weight and muscle tissue; the men in the placebo group showed no significant weight gain.

Steroid use did have adverse side effects, say the researchers, chief among them an increase in LDL--or "bad"--cholesterol and a drop in HDL--or "good"--cholesterol. Some of the study subjects who took the steroid also showed early signs of liver toxicity.

Current HIV-related wasting treatments include the use of nutritional supplements; a drug called megestrol acetate, which produces increases mostly in body fat; and human growth hormones like Serono's Serostim, which cost thousands of dollars for a few weeks of treatment, reports Reuters Health. But the researchers say that because anabolic steroids produce increases in both muscle tissue and fat, the compounds could be useful for some HIV patients experiencing severe wasting, even in light of the potential adverse side effects.

HIV-related wasting is a relatively common condition among HIV patients, particularly those with advanced disease. Wasting puts HIVers at a higher risk of opportunistic infections and other HIV-related complications. (

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