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Updated 30 April 2014

HIV drugs cause slight increase in birth defects

Researchers found that taking antiretroviral drugs only slightly increased the risk of birth defects in children born to French mothers.

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Among mothers who take HIV drugs during pregnancy, there is only a slightly increased risk of birth defects for their children, according to a new study.

Researchers analysed data from more than 13 000 children in France born between 1994 and 2010 to HIV-infected mothers who took antiretroviral drugs during pregnancy.

Taking the drug zidovudine was associated with a 1.2% increased risk for having children with heart defects, while taking efavirenz was associated with a 0.7% increased risk for having children with neurological defects, according to the study in the current issue of PLoS Medicine.

However, the researchers found that several other antiretroviral drugs did not increase the risk of birth defects, according to a journal news release.

Read: HIV drugs may prevent infection

Risks outweighed by benefits

Overall, the risk of birth defects posed by taking antiretroviral drugs during pregnancy is small, and that risk is far outweighed by the benefits of preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV, concluded the researcher Jeanne Sibiude at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM), and colleagues.

In cases where there are safer alternatives, it might be appropriate to avoid the use of zidovudine and efavirenz, they added.

The study findings should not change prescribing habits, but continued scrutiny of the use of antiretroviral drugs during pregnancy is critical, Lynne Mofenson, of the US National Institutes of Health, and Heather Watts, of the Office of the Global Aids Co-ordinator, wrote in an accompanying editorial.


Read more:

Painkillers tied to birth defects
Birth defects in multiples on the rise

 
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