In March 2008,  the D:A:D study, a large study totalling over 30,000 participants, first published results showing an almost doubled risk of heart attack in people taking abacavir.  Some other studies, though, have found no evidence of increased risk. D:A:D’s own evidence suggests the increased risk is only significant in people who already have risk factors for a CVD (cardiovascular disease), such as being male, a smoker, old, high blood fats and cholesterol, or overweight.

The question is still not settled, with the latest D:A:D data presented at last week’s conference still reporting that abacavir is associated with a doubling of the risk of heart attack in people taking it. The rate of heart attacks was 0.47% – nearly one in 200 per year – in people currently taking abacavir but less than half that – 0.21% – in people not taking it.

The full article can be read here.

It should be stressed that patients on abacavir should not necessarily stop taking it, and that the risk in patients who do not have other CVD risk factors is small, so that abacavir can still be a very good choice for many users. However, if you are already at risk of CVD due to other risk factors, then the use of abacavir should be reviewed with your clinician.