Experimental Drug Based on Chinese Herb Might Be Effective Treatment for HIV
An experimental drug derived from a Chinese herb might be able to treat HIV, the Boston Globe reports. The herb, Syzigium claviflorum, has been used in Taiwan to treat diarrhea and halt bleeding, and Watertown, Mass.-based Panacos Pharmaceutical is developing a drug, known as bevirimat, derived from the herb, which, if approved by FDA, would be the first in a new class of drugs that aim to prevent the maturation of HIV. Bevirimat works by obstructing a process in which HIV infects human cells and uses their replication mechanism to make copies of itself. Bevirimat causes the cells to produce harmless, undeveloped copies of HIV that the body can eradicate (Henderson, Boston Globe, 8/7). The drug has been shown to reduce HIV viral loads by as much as 90% (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/8). Because bevirimat functions at a later stage in the virus' life cycle than protease inhibitors, it might be able to be used in combination with existing antiretroviral drugs, Daniel Kuritzkes, director of AIDS research at Brigham and Women's Hospital, said. Bevirimat is in clinical trials to determine the effect of increasing doses of the drug in combination with other antiretrovirals, but the new therapy is at least three years away from being available, the Globe reports (Boston Globe, 8/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.