HIV Drug Cocktail
The HIV drug cocktail is a three-drug combination of anti-retroviral medications used to interrupt the replication of the HIV virus.
If any of these terms are unfamiliar to you, here is the breakdown in a more simple language.
HIV Medication Overview
HIV medications aim to interfere with the virus's ability to reproduce inside the body. To date, no single drug has been effective in stopping the HIV virus, and thus HIV medications are taken in combinations in order to be more effective. These combinations are known as HAART - Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy.
The common HAART treatment regimen is composed of three drugs, a combination widely known as a "drug cocktail" or a "triple cocktail." The drug cocktail has proven highly effective in reducing the amount of virus in the body and thus in reducing the rate of new AIDS cases worldwide.
The Drug Cocktail Breakdown
The HIV drug cocktail is typically comprised of combinations such as two nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) and one protease inhibitor (PI); two NRTIs and one non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI); and other similar combinations.
What do these strange abbreviations mean? Simply put, anti-retroviral drugs are grouped according to which phase of the HIV-virus lifecycle the particular drug inhibits. Here is a brief explanation of some of the HIV medications typically found in a drug cocktail.
Entry Inhibitors: (also called Fusion Inhibitors) During the early phase of the HIV lifecycle, entry inhibitors block HIV replication by interfering with the binding, fusion, and entry of HIV into a CD4 cell.
Integrase Inhibitors: Inhibits the enzyme integrase from integrating viral DNA (or HIV genetic material) into the DNA of CD4 cells, thereby halting replication of the HIV virus.
Protease Inhibitors (PIs): Prevents viral assembly by inhibiting the action of the enzyme protease. Incomplete virons are formed which can't infect cells.
Non-Nucleosides Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTIs): Binds to enzyme reverse transcriptase, thereby preventing viral RNA from converting to viral DNA, which could infect healthy cells.
Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs): Incorporates into the newly synthesized viral DNA, making it ineffective.
As with most drugs, HIV drug cocktails can give rise to unpleasant side effects. Among these potential side effect are: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, depression, dry mouth, fever, fatigue, rash, and peripheral neuropathy.
The good news is that HIV drug cocktails work, and that researchers are continuing to look for new HIV medications and combinations that interrupt the HIV cycle and improve the quality of life for those afflicted with HIV and AIDS.
However, HIV medications are complicated and thus it is essential to be in close contact with a professional in the field who can explain treatment regimens and advise accordingly. HIV drugs should always be taken exactly as prescribed and not changed or stopped without consulting your doctor first.