Hazardous Miracles

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: The reputation of protease inhibitors as the AIDS miracle drug was sullied somewhat today with an FDA announcement that the cocktails may have touched off a slew of diabetes cases. FDA officials caution that the evidentiary link is incomplete, as some of the patients were taking other drugs considered as possible culprits. But the agency deems the cases sufficiently disturbing that it is relabelling all four protease inhibitors sold in the U.S. to warn about the potential side effect. Eighty-three patients recently contracted diabetes mellitus, or saw their diabetes considerably worsen after they began taking protease inhibitors, the agency reported, forcing roughly half of the patients to quit taking the AIDS medication. Of the cases, six suffered life-threatening cases involving ketoacidosis, a dangerous condition where blood sugar levels rise so high that they can induce comas, while 21 others had to be hospitalized. The protease inhibitors' remarkable benefits, however, should spur doctors and researchers to overcome the problems being encountered.