Albany Medical College Generating Good Volunteer Turnout for Merck AIDS Vaccine Clinical Trials
New York's Albany Medical College has so far recruited 15 healthy volunteers to take part in a national Phase I clinical trial of Merck's experimental AIDS vaccine, the Albany Times Union reports. Merck is seeking about 600 volunteers, both with and without HIV infection, to take part in the early-stage testing of its vaccine candidate, which "generat[ed] enthusiasm" among researchers at last month's Ninth Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle (Wood, Albany Times Union, 3/11). The vaccine is being tested as a prophylactic treatment, as well as a way to slow the progression of the virus after infection, Dr. Danny Lancaster, an infectious disease specialist who is directing the Memphis trial site at Methodist Healthcare, said. The Methodist site is seeking 10 volunteers, and nationwide the trial will recruit 92 volunteers at 10 medical centers (Powers, Memphis Commercial Appeal, 3/12). The sites are recruiting healthy volunteers between the ages of 18 and 50, who must make 17 visits over an 18-month period and will receive $50 each visit in compensation for travel and time off from work (Albany Times Union, 3/11). Volunteers must also be at low risk for contracting the virus and will be excluded based on self-reported behavior. "It is not who you are, but what you do," Lancaster said. Excluded behaviors include sharing drug paraphernalia and having unprotected sex with multiple partners (Memphis Commercial Appeal, 3/12). Although the vaccine cannot cause HIV infection, it may cause a false-positive HIV test result and could "theoretically increase" a recipient's odds of developing an autoimmune disorder. So far, Albany Med has had the second-best volunteer turnout among the testing sites. "We've just had an amazing response from the community. The common thread among all these people is they want to do something about HIV," Dr. Peter Piliero, research director for HIV medicine at the university, said (Albany Times Union, 3/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.