HAART Effective in Controlling HIV; Fewer Patients Than Expected Develop Drug Resistance, Study Says
Highly active antiretroviral therapy, which is a combination of three or more antiretroviral drugs, is "quite effective" in controlling HIV, and fewer patients than expected develop resistance to the drugs, according to a study published on Friday in BMJ, Xinhuanet reports (Xinhuanet, 3/4). Caroline Sabin, a professor at the Department of Primary Care and Population Sciences at the Royal Free and University College Medical School in London, and colleagues examined patient records at six clinics in Britain, where a total of 16,593 HIV-positive people were treated between 1996 and 2002 (AFP/Yahoo! News, 3/4). Among patients who had been exposed to antiretroviral drugs, the percentage with high viral load measurements dropped from 89% in 1996 to 23.5% in 2002 and the percentage with low levels of CD4+ T cells -- the cells that HIV primarily attacks -- fell from 57% to 15% over the same period, according to the study (Sabin et al., BMJ, 3/4).
The study also found that drug resistance is "somewhat less of a problem" than previously thought, according to Xinhuanet. About 15% of patients who had been exposed to antiretrovirals in the three major classes of drugs experienced resistance, according to the study (Xinhuanet, 3/4). However, such patients risk exhausting all of their treatment options, and their future response to treatment might depend on the development of new antiretroviral drugs, Reuters reports. "We need to continue to monitor the situation," Sabin said, adding, "There needs to be new drugs that are easier to take and less cross-resistant to other drugs" (Reuters, 3/3).