August 3, 2008 / 3:10 PM / 10 years ago

Drug addicts benefit from HIV drugs, too: study

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Drug abusers benefit just as much from HIV drugs as people who are infected sexually or some other way, Canadian researchers reported on Sunday.

Their finding, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and presented at an international AIDS meeting in Mexico City, contradicts widespread worry that drug abusers cannot stick to treatment.

“A large number of prior reports have demonstrated that because of issues of social instability related to illicit drug addiction, HIV-infected injecting drug users may not be deriving the full benefits of HAART (HIV drugs),” Dr. Julio Montaner of the University of British Columbia and St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, Canada, and colleagues wrote.

In many places, drug users are less likely to be prescribed the lifesaving drugs.

Montaner and colleagues studied 3,116 patients at Canadian clinics between August 1996 and June 2006, of whom 915, or 29.4 percent, were injecting drug users.

They all got highly active antiretroviral therapy or HAART -- the cocktails of drugs that help control human immunodeficiency virus, although they do not provide a cure.

After five years, just over 26 percent of the drug abusers and nearly 22 percent of people infected another way died. The difference was not statistically significant, Montaner’s team said.

Further analysis indicated similar rates of death for both groups, after adjustments were made for age, sex, baseline AIDS diagnosis and other factors.

Reporting By Tan Ee Lyn, Editing by Maggie Fox

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