Wall Street Journal Examines Gilead’s Efforts To Develop Tenofovir as HIV Prevention Drug
The Wall Street Journal on Thursday examined Gilead's efforts to develop its antiretroviral drug tenofovir as an HIV prevention drug. Interest in tenofovir is "especially high" because science thus far has been unable to produce an HIV/AIDS vaccine, the Journal reports. About 5,000 volunteers, mostly in developing countries, are enrolled in U.S. government-funded trials of tenofovir. If the trials are successful, a single pill soon might be available that could help to "slow the global [HIV/]AIDS epidemic," although most scientists are skeptical that tenofovir will be able to "completely halt" HIV transmission, according to the Journal. "The failure of the drug to get more rapid attention as a preventive step partly reflects the contentious politics of AIDS," according to the Journal. Regulations for approval of drugs for people who are already HIV-positive are less stringent than for those who would be taking it as a preventive measure, and legal risks are lower, according to the Journal. In addition, Gilead is reluctant to be "dragged into culture wars over whether an AIDS prevention pill might encourage unsafe sex," the Journal reports. Clinical trials to test the drug's efficacy as a prophylactic have been abandoned in four countries in Asia and Africa because of protests and controversy. Gilead researchers "[b]ehind the scenes" have kept up efforts to accelerate research and secure funding for clinical trials, according to the Journal. Further, it remains unknown how the drug will affect HIV-negative people, and some researchers are concerned that widespread use of tenofovir as a single pill could cause drug-resistant HIV strains to emerge (Hamilton/Chase, Wall Street Journal, 5/18).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.