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New HIV Drug Curbs Drug-Resistant HIV

Experimental Drug, Called Etravirine, Shows Benefits as Part of HIV Treatment 'Cocktail'
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 5, 2007 -- An experimental HIV drug called etravirine may help treat drug-resistant HIV as part of an HIV drug "cocktail" that also includes the HIV medication Prezista.

That news -- published in The Lancet's July 7 edition -- may mean greater survival for people with HIV.

"This study is one of the most significant worldwide HIV/AIDS clinical trials in recent years," says researcher William Towner, MD, of Kaiser Permanente Southern California, in a Kaiser Permanente news release.

Towner is the medical director of Kaiser Permanente Southern California's HIV/AIDS Research Trials. He is also the Kaiser Permanente Southern California regional HIV/AIDS physician coordinator.

HIV Drug Study

The study included nearly 600 people with drug-resistant HIV in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, and eight European nations.

The patients had already unsuccessfully tried other drugs that target HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

The researchers -- who included Towner and Adriano Lazzarin, MD, of San Raffaele University in Milan, Italy -- split the patients into two groups.

All of the patients took various HIV drugs including Prezista and Norvir. Half of the patients took etravirine in addition to Prezista, Norvir, and other HIV medications.

Etravirine Study Results

After taking their assigned drugs for six months, a greater percentage of patients taking the addition of etravirine than those not taking etravirine reduced their blood level of HIV to very low levels.

In other words, adding etravirine to a mixture of medicines for HIV helped curb drug-resistant HIV.

Etravirine didn't seem to add new side effects to those seen with other treatments for HIIV. Side effects with etravirine included diarrhea, nausea, and rash.

Etravirine is "an encouraging new agent in this antiretroviral class," write the researchers.

Their study was funded by the drug company Tibotec, which makes etravirine and Prezista. Tibotec is a Johnson & Johnson company.

Several of the researchers who worked on the etravirine study are Tibotec employees. Others note financial ties to various drug companies.

New Hope for Drug-Resistant HIV?

The Lancet also includes an editorial by Swiss researchers including Bernard Hirschel, MD, of Geneva University Hospital's division of infectious diseases.

Hirschel's team pooled data from two etravirine studies published in The Lancet. They conclude that adding etravirine to Prezista and other HIV drugs halves patients' chances of HIV worsening within six months.

"People care whether they get sick and die, and rather less whether their laboratory tests are normal," write Hirschel and colleagues.

"Occasionally, one hears that the days of innovation in HIV therapy are over and that there is neither the scientific nor economic incentive for further progress," they continue. "Such pessimism is not justified."

In the journal, Hirschel notes that he worked on a previous etravirine study and is connected to an ongoing study on Prezista. Hirschel also discloses financial ties to drug companies including Tibotec.

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