NIAID Study to Examine Whether HIV Treatment Interruption Can Suppress Virus
A National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases-sponsored study to be conducted in 20 sites in the United States and a few sites in Australia will examine whether HIV patients who use treatment interruption experience better outcomes than those who continually take antiretroviral drugs, the Denver Rocky Mountain News reports. The study population will be split into two groups: Half of the volunteers will begin an "aggressive" combination of antiretroviral drugs when their CD4+ T cell counts drop below 300 cells/mm3, and the other half will begin combination therapy if their CD4+ T cell counts drop below 250 cells/mm3 but will be taken off the therapy when their counts rise above 350 cells/mm3. Researchers expect that patients in the treatment interruption group will experience fewer side effects and will "sav[e] money for Medicaid, their clinics or their insurance companies." Dr. David Cohn, Denver's principal investigator for the trial, said that the study "might have great relevance in the Third World -- expensive medications are the big issue in developing countries." UNAIDS estimates that about 25 million HIV-positive people live in sub-Saharan Africa, and few can afford or have access to HIV combination drug treatment. Cohn added that although some people who have access to the drugs are "surviving indefinitely," HIV treatment "is not that simple. We're not going to have a magic bullet anytime too soon" (Scanlon, Denver Rocky Mountain News, 1/10).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.