Gannett/Desert Sun Examines Antiretroviral IsentressGannett/Desert Sun on Monday examined Merck's antiretroviral drug Isentress, which was approved by FDA last year. According to Gannett/Desert Sun, since FDA approved the drug, some HIV-positive people and "medical experts say it appears to work, improving the condition of some HIV patients and sparking hope that drugmakers may develop similar medications."
Isentress, which is known generically as raltegravir, has been shown to be effective for people who have developed resistance to other available drugs. The medication is part of a new class of drugs called integrase inhibitors. Homayoon Khanlou, chief of medicine for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said, "We do need the new class of drugs. There are not many newer agents in the pipeline." Roy Steigbigel -- a professor of medicine at Stony Brook University in New York who recently co-authored a study on Isentress in the New England Journal of Medicine -- said the drug shows "great promise in people whose virus is resistant to many of the other available drugs." He also said studies are "ongoing" to determine if similar results would be seen in patients who have never taken antiretrovirals.
According to Gannett/Sun, Isentress was approved in six months under an FDA fast-track process, which some advocates and lawmakers say they would like the agency to use more frequently to increase approval of HIV/AIDS drugs. Mark Milano, an HIV treatment educator at the AIDS Community Research Initiative of America, said, "People are dying now. If we wait five more years to get the drugs out, people will avoid the risks but they will also be dead." Gannett/Sun reports that the Desert AIDS Project for six months last year participated in a clinical trial of Isentress, during which participants were offered the new drug along with other medications (Barfield Berry, Gannett/Desert Sun, 11/17). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.