Tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF) may activate human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), antagonize zidovudine activity, and contribute to AIDS wasting syndrome. Pentoxifylline decreases TNF production. In cell culture, pentoxifylline decreases HIV replication and gene expression. Since an AIDS Clinical Trial Group study suggested that pentoxifylline (400 mg thrice daily) is safe in AIDS patients and decreases TNF mRNA levels in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), a second cohort received 800 mg thrice daily for 8 weeks. During treatment, the median decrease in TNF production by PBMC cultured with 0.1 μg/mL lipopolysaccharide (LPS) was 40%. The median change in TNF mRNA was a 34% decrease. Pentoxifylline did not affect HIV levels as detected by Quantitative microculture or serum p24 antigen measurements, nor did it alter zidovudine pharmacokinetics. The most common toxicity was gastrointestinal. Pentoxifylline at dosages of less than thrice-daily 800 mg is well tolerated and may decrease TNF mRNA levels and LPS-induced TNF production.
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