FDA Warns Against

'Metabolic Accelerator'

The government warned consumers yesterday not to buy or consume Triax Metabolic Accelerator, calling it a potentially dangerous hormonal drug masquerading as a dietary supplement.

Anyone using Triax should stop immediately, the Food and Drug Administration said. The agency also urged Triax users to see a physician if they have symptoms of thyroid disease, including fatigue, profound weight loss, diarrhea, anxiety, nervousness or insomnia.

The product--containing the ingredient tiratricol, another name for the thyroid hormone TRIAC--is promoted as a way to lose weight by increasing metabolism.

Triax's distributor, Missouri-based Syntrax Innovations Inc., insisted the product is safe and threatened to sue the FDA.

But people who take the recommended dose of Triax could be getting up to 10 times more per day of a potent thyroid hormone than is normal, said David Orloff, an FDA medical officer. That can cause not just uncomfortable thyroid-related symptoms, but also can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure, particularly in people with underlying heart disease, he said.

While the FDA's published warning mentioned only Triax, a quick Internet search uncovered numerous other tiratricol-containing products. When told, FDA officials responded that they would investigate further.

HIV Finds Hiding Places

Unreachable by Drugs

Scientists had more bad news for HIV patients yesterday, saying they found that, within days of infecting someone, the virus manages to find hiding places that no drug currently in use is able to reach.

The finding is another setback to doctors who had hoped that perhaps HIV could be stopped early, either with quick drug treatment or by somehow stimulating the body's immune system.

Microbiologist Ashley Haase of the University of Minnesota and colleagues said that within three days of getting into the body, the virus sneaks into cells known as resting T-cells. These cells are good hiding places because they are inactive and thus not noticed by the immune system. Nor can they be targeted by drugs, which need some kind of activity by the virus or the cells it infects in order to work.

Haase's team infected 14 rhesus monkeys vaginally, to simulate the most common way HIV is passed on. They killed several of the monkeys one, three, seven and 12 days after infection and looked to see where they could find the virus in their bodies. Within three days, the resting CD4 T-cells were infected and by the 12th day the virus was found throughout the lymphatic systems and organs of the animals, according to a report in today's issue of the journal Science.

The researchers looked at patients with HIV infections and found a similar pattern. At least half the cells infected early on were resting T-cells, Haase said.