New AIDS Drug Helps Patients Immune to Other Medications

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter
Wednesday, April 4, 2007; 12:00 AM

WEDNESDAY, April 4 (HealthDay News) -- A Spanish study reveals promising results for a new AIDS drug designed to help patients who are having the most trouble keeping the disease at bay.

The drug darunavir, when taken with an older drug, appears to be 4.5 times more effective than existing regimens at reducing the level of the AIDS virus in the blood to near zero, the study found.

Darunavir, known by the brand name Prezista, has been available in the United States since last summer. The findings in the study were previously available but are only now being published after they were reviewed by experts in the AIDS field, said Dr. Robert Shafer, an AIDS specialist who's familiar with the findings.

"It is a definite advance," said Shafer, an associate professor of medicine-infectious diseases at Stanford University's School of Medicine. "Physicians share a lot of information with each other, and we all know that it's helped a lot of patients who've failed multiple other drugs."

The findings are expected to be published online April 5 by the journalThe Lancet.

Over the past decade, a new generation of AIDS drugs, called antiretrovirals, has allowed many HIV-infected people to live fairly normal lives. But the AIDS virus is a quick study when it comes to mutating itself to avoid drugs, and patients frequently become immune to the medications they take. That allows the virus to make patients sicker.

Complicating matters further, some people are infected with strains of HIV that are already resistant to certain drugs.

Enter darunavir, which is used when other drugs fail.

In the new study, Spanish researchers looked at 230 HIV-positive patients who were randomly assigned to receive a combination of darunavir and another AIDS drug known as ritonavir (at 600 and 100 milligrams twice daily, respectively) or other drug regimens that also utilize so-called protease inhibitors.

All the patients were suffering from advanced stages of HIV infection, and existing drugs weren't working well.

The researchers examined the patients after 48 weeks and found that 61 percent of those taking the darunavir regimen had a level of HIV genetic material that was at least 10-fold lower than it had been. Just 15 percent of the other patients, those taking the older regimen, reached that level.

Also, 45 percent of those taking darunavir had essentially undetectable levels of the HIV genetic material in their blood, compared to 10 percent of the other group.

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