Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
USA Today Reviews Three New Classes of AIDS Drugs in Development
USA Today yesterday reviewed three classes of anti-HIV drugs that are currently in the development pipeline. Although antiretroviral drugs have prolonged life expectancy for people with HIV/AIDS -- the total population of Americans living with HIV/AIDS is now estimated to be between 850,000 and 950,000 -- the drugs can have potentially serious side effects, and if they are taken improperly, the virus can mutate and become resistant to the drugs, prompting patients to continually readjust their treatment regimens. An analysis by Griffin Securities estimates that the antiretroviral drug industry will triple to $13 billion a year within five years due to the growing population of individuals with HIV and the demand for new drugs. The new class of antiretrovirals known as fusion inhibitors seeks to prevent HIV from attaching itself to the human white blood cells that the virus uses to multiply. The drug T-20, developed by Trimeris and Roche Pharmaceuticals, is the most promising of this drug class. "Without a doubt, T-20 will be the next important drug in HIV disease," Jacob Lalezari of Quest Clinical Research, a firm conducting several T-20 trials, said. Robert Schooley of the University of Colorado said that T-20 represents a "new concept in therapeutics," and patients who have taken the experimental drug, which must be injected, credit it with dramatically lowering their viral levels after other treatments had failed. A second new class of antiretroviral drugs called entry inhibitors works by binding to surface receptors on white blood cells to prevent HIV from using the receptor to bond with and invade the cells. Schering-Plough and Bristol-Myers Squibb both have entry inhibitors in development. The Schering-Plough drug SCH-C targets CCR5 receptors on white blood cells, while the Bristol-Myers drug bonds to gp120, a receptor protein on the surface of HIV itself, to prevent infection. The final new class of drugs, known as integrase inhibitors, targets integrase, an enzyme within HIV that is necessary for viral reproduction. Shionogi & Co.'s F-1360 is one such integrase inhibitor that has proven effective in animal tests. All of the drugs were recently reviewed at the Ninth Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections and are "moving steadily through the clinical trials necessary" for FDA approval, USA Today reports (Sternberg, USA Today, 3/19).
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