Washington Post Examines NIH-Funded HIV/AIDS Vaccine Trial in Thailand, Opposition Among Researchers
The Washington Post on Monday examined the progress of the ongoing NIH-funded HIV/AIDS vaccine trial in Thailand, which is testing a combination of two vaccines "that individually have been disappointing in previous trials." At a cost of more than $120 million, the trial is "the largest, most expensive, most resource-intensive [HIV/]AIDS vaccine trial ever," the Post reports (Eunjung Cha, Washington Post, 5/22). The study is testing Brisbane, Calif.-based biotechnology company VaxGen's AIDS vaccine AIDSVAX in conjunction with Sanofi Pasteur's ALVAC among 16,000 HIV-negative volunteers from Thailand's Rayong and Chon Buri provinces. In the trial, AIDSVAX is used as a booster for the ALVAC vaccine (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/16/04). Each volunteer for the trial, which is scheduled to end in 2009, will be followed up for at least three-and-a-half years. According to the Post, some researchers have questioned the validity, science, ethics and potential efficacy of the trial (Washington Post, 5/22). A group of 22 prominent AIDS researchers in the Jan. 16, 2004, issue of the journal Science magazine wrote that the study should be halted because of its high cost and because the two vaccines used by themselves in Phase I and Phase II clinical trials were ineffective in preventing HIV transmission Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/16/04). Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and other lawmakers last year "to no avail" called for the federal government to cut funding for the trial. However, NIH researchers have said that even if the combination vaccine is not effective, the trial might "reveal new things about HIV," according to the Post. Although the "controversy over the trial continues in scientific and political circles" in the U.S., "it has not been an issue in Thailand," the Post reports. Recruiters for the trial in December 2005 exceeded their goal of signing up 16,000 volunteers (Washington Post, 5/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.