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New HIV Drug May Be Better Than the Rest

Tests indicate it acts as a 'booster' and has better patient tolerance

WEDNESDAY, June 26, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- Have scientists found an HIV-fighting drug that's actually better than other similar ones?

Scientists at the University of Toronto and Toronto General Hospital believe that may be the case.

The dramatic change in combatting the HIV virus, which often explodes into AIDS, came a few years ago with what was known as the "AIDS cocktail." These drug combinations contained protease inhibitors, which retarded the progress of the HIV virus, sometimes causing it to even be dormant for a period of time. However, most of the AIDS cocktails seemed to be just about equally effective, or ineffective, depending on the patient.

According to a press release based on findings published in this week's New England Journal of Medicine, University of Toronto's Dr. Sharon Walmsley says, "This is the first time that one protease inhibitor drug combination has been found to work better than another in patients who haven't received treatment before."

Walmsley headed the research team, and is lead author of the NEJM article. "The new drug combination is superior in inhibiting the virus, and it's easier for patients to take. We also found that patients did not develop resistance to the drug, a major factor in HIV treatment," she concludes.

The 653 HIV-infected adults in the test had never received any prior antiretroviral treatment. What the researchers found at the end of 24 and 48 weeks was the new treatment with a drug called Ritonavir acted as a "booster," increasing the effectiveness of the other drugs. "This boosting of protease inhibitors is a whole new concept in HIV therapy," Walmsley says in the press release.

The lopinavir-ritonavir combination is known commercially as Kaletra and is approved for conditional use in Canada and the United States. The drug is now under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for full approval.

More information

This information from the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care explains how protease inhibitors work.

SOURCE: University of Toronto, news release, June 26, 2002
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