Studies have shown that HIV-associated brain disorders can have a serious health impact, accelerating the aging process and increasing death rates. Meanwhile, increased inflammation is linked to cancer, heart disease, kidney failure, dementia, and autoimmune diseases.
Fortunately, researchers from John Hopkins University School of Medicine recently discovered that an existing antidepressant may be able to ameliorate these health concerns and improve the quality of life for those aging with HIV.
In a small, controlled study, the antidepressant drug paroxetine (Paxil) boosted mental functions related to cognitive damage and suppressed inflammation for patients with HIV. The drug improved reaction time and decision-making and moderately suppressed inflammation in patients known to have HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND).
“Over a period of 20 years and after 10 clinical trials, this is the first time we have been able to clearly demonstrate benefit…of cognitive performance for patients with HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders,” said lead author Ned Sacktor, a neurology professor at Johns Hopkins University, noting the groundbreaking nature of the findings.
Even when virally suppressed, people living with HIV can still experience inflammation, which in the brain causes damage to nerve cells. People who suffer from HAND can often experience difficulty with learning, decision-making, motor function, and memory.
Paroxetine seems capable of stopping mental decline and reversing earlier damage. In a 2014 study, those who took paroxetine saw significant improvement in decision-making and reaction time. Since Paroxetine is currently approved for mental health disorders, nothing should delay FDA-approval, which could dramatically reduce the time before the treatment is available to consumers.