Health Highlights: June 29, 2012

Daily 'Quad' Pill Should Help Patients With HIV CDC Launches Free Drugstore HIV Testing

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Daily 'Quad' Pill Should Help Patients With HIV

A once-a-day pill that combines four different anti-HIV medicines may make it easier for patients to adhere to treatment and fight the virus that causes AIDS, researchers say.

Reporting June 28 in The Lancet, study author Paul Sax told BBC News that "Patient adherence to medication is vital, especially for patients with HIV, where missed doses can quickly lead to the virus becoming resistant to medication."

Patients infected with HIV often must take several pills a day, although some drugs have been combined into single pills. But the new four-in-one "quad" pill is the first to include a type of medication known as an integrase inhibitor, which blocks HIV from replicating.

Sax, who is clinical director at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, and associate professor at Harvard Medical School, led a team that tested the new pill in 700 patients. He told the BBC that the drug did appear safe and effective, although people taking it had a higher risk for kidney problems.

Responding to the finding, Dr Steve Taylor, an HIV specialist at Birmingham Heartland Hospital in the U.K., told the BBC that, "We've come a long way from people taking up to 40 pills three times a day." He called the quad pill "great news" for people fighting HIV.

The study was funded by biotech company Gilead Sciences.


CDC Launches Free Drugstore HIV Testing

Drugstore testing for HIV may someday become routine if a government-sponsored pilot program catches on across the United States.

Free rapid HIV tests -- like those used in doctor's office and health clinics -- are available now at seven sites around the country, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Tuesday that it plans to add 17 more pharmacies and in-store clinics in cities and rural regions, the Associated Press reported.

"By bringing HIV testing into pharmacies, we believe we can reach more people by making testing more accessible and reduce the stigma associated with HIV," Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of CDC's HIV prevention program, said in a statement.

The HIV saliva test, which involves swabbing the mouth, provides preliminary results in 20 minutes. Customers with positive results will be referred for laboratory testing and, if the results are confirmed, counseling and treatment, the AP said.

While gay men and injectable drug users are considered at highest risk, the CDC currently recommends all teenagers and adults up to age 64 get tested at least once. The agency estimates that one-fifth of the 1.1 million Americans infected with HIV don't know they carry the virus that causes AIDS.

CDC, which is training drugstore personnel to administer the tests, will review the program results next summer.


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