Consumer Drug Report
HIV drugs linked to birth defects

Pregnant women diagnosed with HIV often take what is known as antiretroviral medication to prevent transferring the virus to their children. The likelihood of an HIV positive pregnant woman passing the virus to her unborn child is decreased from the range of 15%-25% down to less than one percent. Antiretroviral drugs are effective, however, researchers are concerned about the side effects of these medications affecting unborn children.

Some antiretroviral medications include Epivec®, EFV®, Viracept®, Ziagen®, and Retrovir®. They are often prescribed to HIV positive pregnant women to prevent the spread of the virus to their children.

According to a new study conducted by U.S. researchers from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, the use of HIV drugs by pregnant women may pose the risk for children to be born with birth defects such as cleft lip and cleft palate. The study examined the possible linkage between HIV drugs and birth defects and was published in the Cleft Palate – Craniofacial Journal.

Researchers from the study are unsure whether there is a causal connection linking the increasing reports of birth defects found in children and whether or not these birth defects were in fact caused by HIV medications.

The Food and Drug Administration’s MedWatch program reported during a five year period that 26 children born to HIV positive women who are taking HIV medications were born with cleft palate or cleft lip. This rate is much higher than the general population, however, researchers caution that these finding are not sufficient in linking the drugs to these birth defects.

Congenital malformations, or physical defects present as birth, are caused by various reasons such as genetics or environmental issues. More studies are scheduled to be conducted in order to determine if it safe for pregnant women to use antiretroviral medications.


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