First Once-Daily AIDS Drug Gets Green Light

No cure, but allows patients to live years longer

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MONDAY, June 23, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- The first once-a-day AIDS drug known as a protease inhibitor has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Reyataz (alazanavir sulfate) is taken as two pills once daily. While several other protease inhibitors are already on the market, they require taking several pills at least two times a day.

In clinical trials, the new Bristol-Meyers Squibb drug was shown to decrease the HIV virus's presence in the body and increase the number of virus-fighting immune cells known as CD4. The benefits were observed in people who hadn't been previously treated and among patients who had received other anti-viral therapy.

Protease inhibitors are not a cure for AIDS, and they don't prevent transmission of the HIV virus that causes the disease.

While other protease inhibitors have been shown to boost users' blood cholesterol levels, Reyataz did so to a much smaller degree, the FDA says. Side effects of the drug included increased production of bilirubin, a waste product of blood-molecule breakdown that can cause jaundice; as well as nausea, headache, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, drowsiness, insomnia, and fever.

For more information about drugs for the HIV virus and AIDS, visit the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

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