Anabolic steroids may be beneficial in the treatment of weight loss in HIV-infected individuals. Anabolic steroids include testosterone and its derivatives. One of the functions of testosterone is to help build muscle. Testosterone has been demonstrated to increase muscle mass and lean body mass in testosterone-deficient but otherwise healthy men. Individuals with HIV infection often lose weight and have low blood levels of testosterone; thus, the use of anabolic steroids in the treatment of weight loss in individuals with HIV infection may be beneficial. The purpose of this review was to evaluate anabolic steroids as a means of treatment of weight loss in individuals with HIV infection. The review includes 13 randomized clinical trials in the primary analysis. The results suggested that anabolic steroids increased both lean body mass and body weight. However, the results were not consistent among individual trials and the average increase was small and may not be clinically relevant. Furthermore, the results need to be interpreted with caution as this meta-analysis was limited due to small sample sizes; short duration of treatment and of follow-up; and heterogeneity of the study populations, the anabolic interventions, and concomitant therapies.
Although the results of the trials were heterogeneous, on average, the administration of anabolic steroids appeared to result in a small increase in both lean body mass and body weight as compared with placebo. While these results suggest that anabolic steroids may be useful in the treatment of weight loss in HIV infected individuals, due to limitations, treatment recommendations cannot be made. Further information is required regarding the long-term benefit and adverse effects of anabolic steroid use, the specific populations for which anabolic steroid therapy may be most beneficial, and the optimal regime. In addition, the correlation of improvement in lean body mass with more clinically relevant endpoints, such as physical functioning and survival, needs to be determined.
Individuals with HIV infection often lose weight during the course of their disease. Furthermore, low serum concentrations of testosterone are common in individuals with HIV infection, particularly those with weight loss. Treatment of weight loss with anabolic steroids in HIV-infected individuals may be beneficial.
Our objectives were to assess the efficacy and safety of anabolic steroids for the treatment of weight loss in adults with HIV infection.
We searched the following databases: Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, AIDSLINE, AIDSearch, EMBASE, CINAHL, Current Contents, and the National Library of Medicine Gateway Abstracts for controlled trials up to April 2005. We also searched the bibliographies of the identified studies and review the articles. In addition, pharmaceutical manufacturers of anabolic steroids were contacted.
Randomized controlled trials that compared the use of an anabolic steroid to placebo to treat weight loss in adults with HIV were included. Randomized controlled trials that compared the use of anabolic steroids to placebo for the treatment of weight loss in adults with HIV were selected. Change from baseline in lean body mass or in body weight was reported as on outcome measure.
Two reviewers independently assessed the trials for quality of randomization, blinding, withdrawals, and adequacy of allocation concealment. For continuous data, weighted mean differences (WMD) were calculated. For dichotomous outcomes, risk differences, were calculated. Because of uncertainty as to whether consistent true effects exist in such different populations and treatments, the authors decided a priori to use random effects models for all outcomes.
Thirteen trials met the inclusion criteria. Two hundred ninety-four individuals randomized to anabolic steroid therapy and 238 individuals randomized to placebo were included in the analysis of efficacy for change from baseline in lean body mass. Three hundred forty-three individuals randomized to anabolic steroid and 286 randomized to placebo were included in the analysis of efficacy for change from baseline in body weight. The mean methodologic quality of the included studies was 4.1, of a maximum 5 points. Although significant heterogeneity was present for both outcomes, the average change in lean body mass was 1.3 kg (95% CI: 0.6, 2.0), while the average change in total body weight was 1.1 kg (95% CI: 0.3, 2.0). A total of eight deaths occurred during the treatment period; four in the anabolic steroid treatment groups and four in the placebo-treatment groups (risk difference 0.00, 95% CI -0.03, 0.03). The risk difference for withdrawals or discontinuations of study medication due to adverse events was 0.00 (95% CI: -0.02, 0.03).