The HIV symbol HIV-suppressing protease inhibitor drugs do not only help in increasing the patients’ longevity but can also speed hardening of the arteries. Now, U.S. researchers say a special drug combination may reduce that side effect.

Researchers at the University of Kentucky discovered that giving mice HIV drugs called nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTI), along with a protease inhibitor, prevented the hardening of the arteries that occurs when a protease inhibitor is used alone.

The mice received a common protease inhibitor called ritonavir and one of two NRTIs — either d4T or didanosine.

The findings were published in the current issue of the American Journal of Physiology-Cell Physiology.

According to senior author Eric J. Smart said, “The combination prevented the negative cardiovascular effect, hardening of the arteries, of the protease inhibitors without reducing the effectiveness of the protease inhibitors on HIV.”

“To our knowledge, these are the first data that indicate that nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors can limit the atherogenic (tendency to form lipid deposits in the arteries) effects of ritonavir,” he and his colleagues remarked.