How an HIV Drug Could Prevent Diabetes – The Research & Evidence

Posted November 20, 2020 by Clint Kelly - See Editorial Guidelines

With diabetes and prediabetes on the rise in recent years, medical professionals are constantly seeking new and improved ways on how to treat and prevent the condition. There are many medications available for treating diabetes, but none have been proven to cure or prevent it. So, could an HIV drug prevent diabetes by repurposing it?

Recent studies are showing that a certain HIV drug could lower one’s risk of developing diabetes. So, in this article, we will discuss this information and what you need to know. First, here is a quick summary before we get into the details.

How an HIV Drug Could Prevent Diabetes: Individuals battling HIV or hepatitis B often take drugs classified as NRTIs (nucleoside reverse-transcriptase inhibitors). Researchers discovered that patients taking these drugs have better insulin sensitivity and a decreased chance of developing diabetes. The drug would have to be repurposed for it to be prescribed specifically for diabetes.

Now that you have the quick summary, let’s get into the specifics, including an overview of diabetes.

Diabetes Overview

How an HIV Drug Could Prevent Diabetes

There are various types of diabetes, including type 1 and type 2, gestational, and prediabetes. For this article, we are focused on type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.

Roughly 34 million Americans have diabetes, with 90-95% of them having type 2. And nearly one-third of the country has prediabetes, with many individuals not even knowing they have it.

Typically, type 2 diabetes develops in people that are older than 45, but more and more young adults and teenagers are starting to develop this condition.

Type 2 diabetes is most often caused by lifestyle factors. In this condition, either the cells of the body do not respond appropriately to insulin (insulin resistance), or the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels stable. 

High blood sugar levels can lead to health complications down the road, shortening one’s lifespan. Therefore, medication is often needed to help one achieve normal glucose levels.

Medications for diabetes can either be oral or subcutaneous injections.

Nucleoside Reverse-Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs)

Nucleoside reverse-transcriptase inhibitors, abbreviated as NRTIs and sometimes called “nukes,” are types of drugs often prescribed to patients dealing with HIV. Here is how it works with treating HIV, and this HIV drug could treat diabetes.

Used to Treat HIV

When a person has HIV, the virus will enter a healthy cell and attempt to duplicate itself. The virus can do this through an enzyme called reverse transcriptase. Though this virus cannot be cured, it can be controlled by using NRTIs and possibly other medications.

NRTIs are able to block the enzyme, preventing the HIV virus from making copies of itself.

Effect on Diabetes

According to research, patients taking NRTIs exhibited a 33% less likely chance of developing type 2 diabetes.

Chronic inflammation is a major contributing factor for type 2 diabetes, as it can lead to insulin resistance. Because of how NRTIs work, they can block the mechanism of inflammation, decreasing one’s chances of suffering from insulin resistance.

So, according to this, HIV drugs could prevent diabetes from developing individuals that are at an increased risk.

Available NRTIs

Here is a list of available brand-name NRTIs:

The Outlook on if this HIV Drug Could Prevent Diabetes

How an HIV Drug Could Prevent Diabetes

Despite the evidence that we have so far regarding whether this HIV drug could prevent diabetes, it cannot be prescribed specifically for diabetes. This is due to NRTI medications not being FDA approved for the use of diabetes prevention or treatment.

Therefore, drugs that are classified as NRTIs would have to undergo another approval process. The manufacturers would have to repurpose the drug so that doctors can prescribe it to patients at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The drugs’ formula may need to be modified slightly so that it is geared more towards preventing insulin resistance. It may also need to be modified to be a less toxic dosage, as the current formula for NRTIs is for the treatment of HIV and hepatitis B.

It is important to mention that not all individuals will respond the same to various medications. In some cases, taking one of the HIV drugs mentioned above to prevent diabetes may not be worth the risk. Your doctor must evaluate your condition and monitor your response to medicines prescribed to ensure the benefits outweigh the potential risks.


With continued research and advances in medicine, the hope is that we will find a cure for all types of diabetes one day. It appears that experts are getting closer to finding methods to prevent type 2 diabetes.

The best thing you can do is to research for yourself and talk to your doctor. Many healthcare professionals are up to date on the most recent studies and potential for proven treatments.

If you are struggling to afford your medication, then Prescription Hope may be able to help. We work directly with pharmaceutical manufacturers to provide patients with the prescription drugs they need at a fraction of the cost. Enroll with us and start paying just $50 a month for each medicine.