Two new big stories regarding AIDS: some good, some bad. First, the good. It’s been reported that a single-pill, once-a-day AIDS treatment may be available by the end of the year. Though the drug regimen to treat AIDS is less oppressive than it was a decade ago, it’s still a difficult and confusing process. Combining drugs has been diffcult–mainly because no single company oned rights to all the drugs needed for an optimal combination. Now, Gilead Sciences (developers of Tamiflu) and Bristol-Myers Squibb have agreed to collaborate and combine 3 drugs into one pill (a New England Journal of Medicine study released yesterday examined the combined treatment and found it effective). Look for more of these combo drugs in the future if this one takes off.
In the bad news section, a study testing the effect of stopping AIDS drugs was stopped after serious complications were seen in those who volunteered to temporarily stop their drugs.
This might sound like a dumb study to carry out, but the rationale was to examine whether patients could skip their drugs for a few months without adverse health consequences. The drugs to treat AIDS aren’t pretty, and can have serious side effects themselves. (Leading HIV denialists to suggest that AIDS isn’t caused by the virus at all, but by these and other “toxic drugs” instead). This study certainly puts that notion to rest (not that they’ll stop pounding that drum…)
Investigators found that, in the group that stopped taking the medications, serious complications of AIDS and other adverse effects (such as cardiovascular, kidney, and liver disease) were more common than in the group that continued taking the drugs regularly. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID) determined the risks ere “unacceptably high,” and ended the study–though another study is ongoing, looking at whether taking the drugs just 5 days a week instead of 7 is effective. If it is, it may not spare patients from some of the nastier side effects of the medications, but it could spare them some of the expense of the drugs, which cost $10,000+ every year.