Arizona Republic Profiles Phoenix-Based Group Conducting Trials on Experimental Antiretrovirals
The Arizona Republic on Thursday profiled Phoenix, Ariz.-based Body Positive, a not-for-profit group that holds a nationally recognized clinical trial site used by pharmaceutical companies to test antiretroviral drugs.
Kirk Baxter, founder of the Body Positive center and Andy Myers, the group's medical director of clinical trials, launched the organization more than 10 years ago to help provide local HIV-positive residents with access to antiretrovirals. According to Baxter, he and Myers mailed letters to drug companies interested in testing such medicines.
Pharmaceutical company Roche responded to the group in the mid-1990s, introducing a test for Saquinivir, the first protease inhibitor approved in the U.S., in Phoenix and other clinical sites across the country. Since then the group has conducted more than 100 drug studies, and more than 24 drugs have been approved by FDA. Body Positive currently tests drugs produced by six companies, including Abbott Laboratories, Hoffman-La Roche and Merck.
The organization now has a $3.5 million annual budget and serves about 1,500 HIV-positive clients each year. The group provides behavioral health services, support groups, wellness programs, and a vitamin and herb shop, according to the Republic. The federal government in 2005 cut about $600,000 in funding for the group's wellness program, and Body Positive now relies on community donations to continue operating the initiative.
According to the Republic, drug companies fund the majority of the cost for the clinical trials, providing free medicines and paying for blood screenings for all trial participants. Body Positive spends about $200,000 annually to support the program, a large part of which goes to post-trial clients who need drugs that are not yet FDA-approved. More than 11,600 Arizonans are living with HIV/AIDS, and nearly 70% of them live in the Phoenix area, the Republic reports (Alltucker, Arizona Republic, 9/27).