New HIV/AIDS pill good news for everyone

Posted: Monday, December 27, 2004

People suffering from HIV/AIDS also have had to suffer from taking a mind-boggling amount of medication on a strict schedule and only with certain foods.

There are drugs that need to be taken every eight hours on an empty stomach. Other medications are taken every five hours, but this time with food. It's easy to make a mistake.

Missing a scheduled dose is hazardous because it can lead to the virus developing a resistance to the drug. Then, other medications must be introduced if there are any that the patient can use.

What started with the drug AZT in the late 1980s has burgeoned to about 25 approved HIV medications on the market, and more being studied and approved by the Federal Drug Administration at a fairly steady clip. So far, so good: While there is no cure on the horizon, the virus can be suppressed with medication and there are choices in each classification. With careful management, the virus will not adapt faster than the pace of new medicines to combat it.

Simplifying a medication schedule is important to the 40 million people who are infected worldwide, and the 850,000 to 950,000 Americans who are HIV positive. About one out of every 300 Americans has what is a very expensive, chronic condition requiring intensive medical response.

Until recently, the best that drug companies have been able to come up with is the two-a-day pill that combines medications from different classifications. Now, two companies are in the hunt to create the one-a-day that would have the three main classes of HIV medications in one handy pill.

That's a huge improvement over the 25-a-day pill-popping regimen that HIV patients took just 10 years ago.

There are plenty of grim statistics about the worldwide outlook for the disease and usually it's the bad news about the spread of HIV that makes the headlines. Although the one-a-day pill is not a cure, hearing positive news about HIV treatment is good medicine for us all.

The Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville)

Dec. 26

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