Open Access Research article

Clinical outcomes and immune benefits of anti-epileptic drug therapy in HIV/AIDS

Kathy Lee1, Pornpun Vivithanaporn23, Reed A Siemieniuk1, Hartmut B Krentz14, Ferdinand Maingat2, M John Gill145 and Christopher Power125*

Author Affiliations

1 Southern Alberta Clinic, Alberta Health Services, Calgary, AB, Canada

2 Division of Neurology, Department of Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB, Canada

3 Department of Pharmacology, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand

4 Department of Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada

5 Department of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada

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BMC Neurology 2010, 10:44  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-10-44

Published: 17 June 2010



Anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs) are frequently prescribed to persons with HIV/AIDS receiving combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) although the extent of AED use and their interactions with cART are uncertain. Herein, AED usage, associated toxicities and immune consequences were investigated.


HIV replication was analysed in proliferating human T cells during AED exposure. Patients receiving AEDs in a geographically-based HIV care program were assessed using clinical and laboratory variables in addition to assessing AED indication, type, and cumulative exposures.


Valproate suppressed proliferation in vitro of both HIV-infected and uninfected T cells (p < 0.05) but AED exposures did not affect HIV production in vitro. Among 1345 HIV/AIDS persons in active care between 2001 and 2007, 169 individuals were exposed to AEDs for the following indications: peripheral neuropathy/neuropathic pain (60%), seizure/epilepsy (24%), mood disorder (13%) and movement disorder (2%). The most frequently prescribed AEDs were calcium channel blockers (gabapentin/pregabalin), followed by sodium channel blockers (phenytoin, carbamazepine, lamotrigine) and valproate. In a nested cohort of 55 AED-treated patients receiving cART and aviremic, chronic exposure to sodium and calcium channel blocking AEDs was associated with increased CD4+ T cell levels (p < 0.05) with no change in CD8+ T cell levels over 12 months from the beginning of AED therapy.


AEDs were prescribed for multiple indications without major adverse effects in this population but immune status in patients receiving sodium or calcium channel blocking drugs was improved.