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AZT Essay

Free Essay on AZT:

1. AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome and is caused by a virus called HIV, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. When one is infected with HIV, one’s body starts to fight the infection, producing the antibodies. If during the blood test these antibodies are discovered, one is believed to be HIV positive. Being HIV-positive does not mean to have AIDS.

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Most of the time HIV can be acquired through unprotected sex with an infected person. However, the virus also spreads by sharing drug needles or through contact with the blood of an infected person. Infected women pass the virus to their babies during pregnancy and child birth.

The first symptoms of HIV are swollen glands and flu-like symptoms, which come and go a month or two after infection. More severe symptoms sometimes appear only in later years (AIDS.ORG, 2009).

2. Ever since AIDS was discovered scientists and doctors have emphasized the tremendous negative health effects of the illness on the body. Though, the emotional/psychological symptoms of AIDS are very often overlooked. The psychological aspect of the illness cannot be ignored because during any illness, moreover a fatal one, both the physical and emotional selves are affected. In fact, sometimes psychosocial symptoms may precipitate the physical ones.

Many HIV positive patients experience severe depressions. This is understandable because not many people diagnosed with a fatal disease would be able to keep themselves together and avoid going to pieces. Additionally patients experience confusion, weakness, changes in level of consciousness, and moodiness. Such psychological symptoms appear because the body of the infected patient starts to fight the virus and, unable to succeed, begins to produce hormones that cause unstable emotional states. Moreover, sometimes HIV treatment contributes to this problem by changing the way the brain works.

Of course, each person’s experience with AIDS is unique. Thus, all the feelings, emotions, and fears that every infected individual experiences are unique as well. These feelings sometimes go away or lessen with time, though this depends purely on one’s personality and clinical history.

The described psychological symptoms of course lead to the deterioration of the physical state.

3. The drug I have chosen to discuss is called AZT – azidothymidine, and is a type of antiretroviral drug. As a matter of fact, this is the drug that was the first one to be approved for treatment of HIV.

AZT is a drug from the class of reverse transcriptase inhibitors that are antiretroviral drugs used to treat such serious illnesses as cancer, tumors, and HIV. HIV multiplies itself by inserting its genes into a cell’s genome. By means of this process the cell divides and produces a new copy of the virus. When delivered to the body AZT starts to inhibit the action of the enzymes used by HIV virus for transcription of RNA to DNA (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2009). AZT kills the dividing cells, notwithstanding if they are infected by the virus or not. Thus, we see that even though AZT is effective in brining DNA synthesis to rest, it kills healthy cells, which this is very harmful for the body (Papadopulos-Eleopulos, 1999, p. 4-6).

It is important to mention that AZT does not cure the HIV infection. What it does, is it delays the further spread of the disease and the replication of the virus. As a result it should be remembered that the drug does not prevent passing of HIV to others. However, the drug can be used to prevent to passing of HIV from the mother to the fetus. Lastly, this medication is often used to prevent HIV after coming in contact with the virus.

Sometimes it happens that, even though AZT is very effective in inhibiting viral duplication, HIV would mutate and develop resistance to the drug. Specifically, during prolonged AZT treatment the HIV might gain an increased resistance to AZT. For this reason, patients are often given this medication in the combination with other reverse transcriptase inhibitors or a antiretroviral drug of a different class. If AZT is taken together with other drugs the patient should be carefully supervised and examined to determine whether the effectiveness of the drug is increasing or decreasing because of the combination with another drug(Encyclopedia Britannica, 2009).

Some of the helpful effects of this drug are: necessary weight gain, and decrease in the number of opportunistic infections. However, many researchers believe that the drug is too toxic for long-term use and its positive effects are exaggerated.

4. In the previous question I have mentioned some drawbacks of AZT drug, in this question I would like to cover this topic more thoroughly. AZT has a wide range of side effects, such as: headache, trouble sleeping/insomnia, anemia, impotence, dementia, mania, muscle soreness, nausea or discoloration of finger and toe nails, fever, coughing, skin rashes and enlargement of the liver, fatal cases of lactic acidosis or a buildup of acid in the bloodstream (ZIDOVUDINE (AZT)-ORAL Index).

The first side effects I would like to mention are neurological side effects as insomnia, neuropathy, and mania. These side effects are brought about by the patient’s overall weak mental state. Additionally, these neurological problems are often brought about by the patient’s awareness that the treatment has been started.

Other important side effect of the drug us that it occasionally may causes anemia, as AZT massively and unselectively destroys cells. This is done though suppressing the bone marrow causing and a reduction in the white cell and platelets. The latter, in addition, causes muscle weakness. This happens because white blood cells are responsible for the immune system, thus when they are reduced the patient becomes even more prone to infections.

In a nutshell, most of the above side effects might be caused by the sensitivity of the γ-DNA polymerase in the cell mitochondria (Indopedia, 2009).

5. AZT should be taken exactly in accordance with the prescription of the doctor familiar with the medical case. If the doctor prescribes the medicine to be take every four hours it is important to take it strictly on time. When the drug is taken in combination with other medication it should be taken less than once in four hours.

The recommended dose of AZT for adults is 500 mg to 600 mg daily. When it comes to children, the dose is determined by the weight or body surface area. It is allowed for children to be given a dose three times or twice a day. AZT comes in several forms, it can be taken with or without food, however, should not be mixed with biologic or colloidal fluids, such as blood products, and protein solutions.

The drug is prescribed to be taken under strict supervision, meaning that the patient should be coming in for a check-up on regular basis. This is done to insure the control over the situation and the possibility to stop the treatment or reconsider the dose in case side effects are exceptional (Zidovudine (Azidothymidine; AZT; Compound S. Professional Information, 2009).

6. The package insert of AZT is rather lengthy. This is because the drug is used in serious circumstances, thus every possible point should be considered. The insert is clearly written, it is divided into short sections, such as: Warning, Medication Uses, Other Uses, How To Use, Side Effects, Precautions, Drug Interactions, Overdose, Notes, Missed Dose, Storage, Medical Alert. The sections are clear, the language used in the insert is rather easy to understand. There are several medical terms that are not explained. Though, the person in the medical condition is assumed to be familiar with the terms.

I think more attention in this insert should be paid to the side effects, as this section is one of the most important sections in any insert. The side effects are explained of course, however, this is done only in one passage. Thus, I believe the information is not emphasized enough to be duly noted.

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