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New AIDS Drug May Be Most Powerful Yet

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WebMD Health News

Oct. 30, 2001 -- After only seven days on an experimental AIDS drug, patients had a hundred-fold average drop in their HIV levels. In some people, the drug had a far greater effect -- making it one of the most powerful anti-HIV drugs ever tested in humans.

Manufacturer Tibotec-Virco calls the drug TMC125. It's designed specifically to fight HIV that has already become resistant to other AIDS drugs. Along with another hot new AIDS drug called Sustiva, TMC125 is in a class of medications called non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors or NNRTIs. Different types of AIDS drugs typically are mixed into powerful anti-HIV "cocktails."

The early findings, reported at a major European AIDS conference, come from only 18 people who took the drug all by itself for seven days. But they hint that TMC125 may one day be just what the doctor ordered.

"A [hundred-fold] drop in viral load over seven days -- it is the largest we have seen," Tibotec-Virco researcher Neal Graham, MD, tells WebMD. "We think we have something quite special."

In the early study, designed to test the drug's short-term safety and effectiveness, none of the people had ever before taken an AIDS drug. Even the researchers seem surprised by the drug's extraordinary efficacy.

"These are outstanding drops in HIV levels," study leader Gerben van't Klooster, PhD, tells WebMD. "It is not only the [hundred-fold] drop, but it went up to a [2,500-fold] drop. This is just a single-patient result, but it is certainly telling you something special is going on. And the side-effects profile is very clean. We are seeing mild side effects at most."

The trial's 18 Russian participants took a big gamble by enrolling in the study. By taking just one kind of AIDS drug, they risked making their HIV infection resistant to all drugs of the class. Fortunately, this did not happen -- and the participants all have been offered state-of-the-art combination therapy.

TMC125 now is being tested in people whose HIV is already resistant to many drugs. Graham says that further development of the drug will focus on people who are highly experienced with AIDS drugs -- and who are running out of new treatment options.

Tibotec-Virco also is developing TMC114 -- a member of the class of AIDS drugs known as protease inhibitors. This drug, too, is being developed to fight HIV that has become resistant to other protease inhibitors.

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