A medication commonly used to treat HIV appears to double the risk that patients will develop suicidal thoughts or take their lives, new research contends. The finding concerns the anti-HIV drug efavirenz, which is marketed as Sustiva. Prior investigations indicated that efavirenz might boost suicide risk because of a negative impact on the central nervous system. The new investigation is the first to pinpoint a link to suicidal thoughts, attempts and completion, the researchers said.
“Efavirenz is a very important and effective antiretroviral medication that is the foundation for much of HIV therapy worldwide,” said study co-author Dr. Joseph Eron, of the University of North Carolina Center for AIDS Research at Chapel Hill. “Our study demonstrated a clear association between efavirenz and suicidality,” he said.
Although that risk seems very small, he said, it appears to be persistent, lasting as long as patients take the drug. Antiretroviral treatment typically is lifelong, helping people with the AIDS-causing virus live healthier lives. “Clinicians should be aware of this ongoing risk, and talk to their patients to assess suicidality,” Eron added. That means looking for any history of depression or suicidal thoughts or attempts, the study noted.
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