Abacavir not linked to increased risk of heart attack, reports US FDA

Keith Alcorn
Published: 02 March 2011

The US Food and Drug Administration has found no evidence of an association between abacavir treatment and increased risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack) in a meta-analysis of 26 randomised trials of the drug, the agency reported this week.

The findings were presented as a poster at the Eighteenth Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Boston.

Abacavir (Ziagen) is one of the recommended alternatives for first-line antiretroviral treatment in the United Kingdom and United States, and is marketed as part of the combination pill Kivexa (Epzicom in the US).

Questions about the potential increased risk of heart attack in patients taking abacavir were first raised after an analysis of cardiovascular events in the D:A:D cohort study found a 70% increased risk of heart attack in patients exposed to abacavir. That risk appeared to persist for six months after stopping the drug.

Subsequent analyses of other datasets have produced conflicting results. Danish investigators also found a doubling of risk in abacavir-treated patients, as did the investigators of the SMART study of treatment interruption. However a pooled analysis of all clinical trials carried out by manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline failed to find any increased risk.

A meta-analysis of randomised trials is one way of excluding possible biases, since randomisation will remove elements of bias.

The US FDA carried out its own meta-analysis, gathering data from 26 studies in which abacavir was used as part of a combination antiretroviral regimen in adults in which the trial population was greater than 50 persons and in which patients were randomly assigned to receive abacavir.

The meta-analysis covered data from 26 studies (16 manufacturer studies, five AIDS Clinical Trials Group studies and five independent studies) which included 5028 abacavir recipients and 4804 non-abacavir recipients with a mean follow-up per person of 1.62 years. The studies recorded 47 cases of myocardial infarction, occurring in 18 of the 26 studies.

The FDA calculated an odds ratio of 1.02 (95% CI 0.56 to 1.84) for abacavir, a non-significant difference.

The FDA concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support the view that abacavir increases the risk of myocardial infarction.


Ding X et al. No association of myocardial infarction with ABC use: an FDA meta-analysis. 18th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, Boston, abstract 808, 2011.

We rely on donations to continue our work to help people with HIV, support us today at: www.aidsmap.com/donate

Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.