Trimeris, Roche Testing Effectiveness of Needle-Free Injector To Deliver Antiretroviral Fuzeon, Boost Drug’s Sales
Durham, N.C.-based Trimeris and Swiss drug maker Roche in an effort to increase sales of their antiretroviral drug Fuzeon -- which needs to be injected twice a day -- are testing whether the drug can be administered using the needle-free device known as the Biojector instead of a standard syringe, the Raleigh News & Observer reports (Vollmer, Raleigh News & Observer, 1/29). Trimeris and Roche jointly developed Fuzeon, which is in a class of drugs called fusion inhibitors and is designed for HIV/AIDS patients who have failed to respond to other medications. The drug has encountered resistance from doctors and patients because of its high cost -- about $20,000 per patient per year -- and injection delivery method. According to a September 2004 report written by Thomas Wei, an analyst at Piper Jaffray, the side effects of injecting Fuzeon likely will limit each HIV-positive person's use of the drug to two or three years because they will "eventually run out of skin surface for injection" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/9/04). The drug also leaves welts on the skin when injected using a standard syringe, according to the News & Observer. The Biojector -- an FDA-approved, gas-powered device made by Bioject Medical Technologies that resembles a syringe without a needle -- "pushes" a drug under the skin into the muscle without leaving welts, according to the News & Observer. In a study of 27 people who injected Fuzeon using the Biojector, patients received an amount of drug similar to the amount injected using a standard syringe, according to the News & Observer. "The initial data are encouraging," Alex Dusek, Trimeris' marketing director, said, adding, "We hope the device can become a viable alternative to the traditional needle and syringe. But we're in the middle of evaluations. It's too early to say where we'll go from here." Currently, about 25% of people taking Fuzeon do not continue taking the drug after one month, according to Trimeris (Raleigh News & Observer, 1/29).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.