Background: Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) with protease inhibitors (PI) is successful in suppressing viral replication, but may lead to a range of metabolic abnormalities associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Objectives: The first objective of the study was to compare baseline demographic and clinical characteristics between PI users and non-PI users referred to a specialized metabolic clinic during 1999–2003. The second objective was to assess the associations of prescription drugs and fish oil with dyslipidaemia and to determine whether or not patients achieved treatment targets during 6 months of treatment.

Methods: A retrospective analysis was performed using two sets of charts based on standardized forms with entries for personal data, drug treatment and clinical history. Anonymous linkage with the British Columbia HIV/AIDS Drug Treatment Program and the hospital laboratory was performed to gather information about HAART prescriptions and blood work.

Results: In total, 237 patients were included in the study. There were few differences in any demographic or clinical factors between PI users and non-PI users. Compared with controls not taking lipid-lowering drugs or fish oil (n=48), statins appeared to be the only agent that was significantly associated with a reduced total cholesterol concentration (−15.6%; P=0.009). Fibrate treatment was associated with the largest reduction of triglyceride concentration (−37.4%; P=0.012), closely followed by fish oil (n=18;−32%; P=0.027). Six-month treatment success rates ranged between 17 and 43% of patients for total cholesterol (<5.2 mmol/L) and between 15 and 44% of patients for triglycerides (<2.3 mmol/L).

Conclusions: Despite the apparent lowering of blood lipids with drug and fish oil treatments, a majority of patients in these treatment groups (56.5–83.3%) still had elevated concentrations after 6 months.