Archive for the 'meds' Category


Senate votes to approve funds to fight HIV/Aids

The Senate on Thursday voted 81-12 to approve the fiscal year 2008 foreign aid spending bill (HR 2764) that would increase funds to fight HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria worldwide, the AP/International Herald Tribune reports. The $34 billion measure would increase President Bush’s $4.2 billion request for funds to fight HIV/AIDS globally by $940 million (Taylor, AP/International Herald Tribune, 9/6). The measure would increase the U.S. contribution to the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to $590 million (HR 2764 text, 9/7). The bill would allow President Bush and future presidents to waive the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief’s abstinence spending requirement.

By law, at least one-third of HIV prevention funds that focus countries receive through PEPFAR must be used for abstinence-until-marriage programs (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 6/22).

The spending bill also would allocate $1.2 billion for the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a program meant to encourage economic and political reforms in developing countries. Bush requested $3 billion for MCC, according to the AP/Herald Tribune (AP/International Herald Tribune, 9/6). “A reduction of this magnitude is unacceptable and would severely undermine MCC’s efforts to reduce poverty in countries that practice good governance, particularly in Africa, and make it more difficult for the United States to meet its commitment to double aid to Africa by 2010,” the Office of Management and Budget said in a statement (Pulizzi, Dow Jones/Nasdaq, 9/6). Similar legislation passed the House in June, and the Senate bill must be reconciled with the House-approved measure (AP/International Herald Tribune, 9/6).


US FDA staff support benefits of Merck AIDS drug

WASHINGTON, Aug 31 (Reuters) – Benefits of an experimental AIDS drug developed by Merck & Co (MRK.N: Quote, Profile, Research) appear to outweigh risks, according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration staff documents released on Friday ahead of an advisory panel meeting.

FDA staff said they support the safety and effectiveness data of the pill, called Isentress, according to documents posted on the agency’s Web site. A panel of FDA advisors will meet Sept. 5 to review Merck’s bid and make a recommendation.

Isentress, known generically as raltegravir, was tested in patients who have become resistant to currently available HIV medicines. If approved, it would be the first in a new class of HIV medicines called integrase inhibitors which aim to block insertion of HIV genetic material into human DNA to prevent replication of the virus.

FDA staff said the most common side effects occurring in the Isentress group were rash and an increase in levels of blood creatine.

No deaths in the clinical trial data could be linked to the drug, they wrote.

Because of advances in treatment, more people are living with HIV or AIDS than ever before. From 2001 to 2005, the numbers of those living AIDS in the United States rose 27 percent to about 422,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Hollywood wants story of HIV medics

From | The eight-year ordeal of five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor convicted of deliberately injecting 460 Libyan children with HIV may be the subject of a Hollywood film. Sixth Sense Productions, which helped to raise funding for Hotel Rwanda, the Oscar-nominated genocide drama, said that the medical workers had signed over their life rights for the film project The Benghazi Six. The medics, who were sentenced to death, were freed on July 24 after the European Union brokered a cooperation deal with Libya after years of complex legal and political battles. The six said that they were tortured into confessing to starting an epidemic while working in Benghazi, Libya’s second city, in which hundreds of children were infected with HIV in 1998. More than 50 of the children have died.

Sixth Sense is in talks with Ann Peacock, who wrote the screenplay adaptation of the children’s fantasy blockbuster The Chronicles of Narnia, to write the script. The company is also interviewing directors. (Reuters)


News on needle exchange in Washington, DC

From Kaiser Daily: The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government on Tuesday will consider a Washington, D.C., appropriations bill that includes language preventing the city from financing needle-exchange programs, the Washington Post reports. According to the Post, some health advocates are hopeful that the language will be removed from the bill because of the “changed balance of power on Capitol Hill” (Levine, Washington Post, 6/5). The ban was first imposed under a federal law signed by former President Clinton in 1998 that prohibits the district government from using local tax money to fund any organization that operates a needle-exchange program (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/29). According to the Post, the House has added the ban each year to the district’s appropriations bill (Washington Post, 6/5).

Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.), chair of the subcommittee, recently said he will make it a priority to push for the removal of the language. District Mayor Adrian Fenty has said that he will provide funds for needle-exchange programs as soon as Congress removes the language.

Injection drug use is the second most common mode of HIV transmission among men in the district and the most common mode among women in the city. Prevention Works!, the district’s only needle-exchange program, is financed through private donations and reaches about one-third of the estimated 9,700 injection drug users in the city (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/29). Walter Smith, executive director of the DC Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, said that there is a connection between the high number of HIV/AIDS cases in the district and lack of a city-funded needle-exchange program, adding that it’s “time to uncouple” the connection.

Serrano said that although it is unclear whether the ban will be lifted, he is ready to push the issue. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) called the ban “abuse of the city,” adding that “countless deaths have occurred” because the city lacks a government-funded needle-exchange program. More than two dozen medical, public health, social service and philanthropic organizations last month sent a letter to Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), chair of the subcommittee that initially handles the district’s budget, urging that the restriction be lifted, the Post reports. Chuck Knapp — a spokesperson for Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), the original author of the ban — said that Tiahrt likely will try to continue the ban but added that “it’s a different political environment” than when it originally passed (Washington Post, 6/5).


Scientists expose HIV weak spot

BBC NEWS | Health | Scientists expose HIV weak spot
Scientists have shown what happens when an infection-fighting antibody attacks a gap in HIV’s formidable defences. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases-led team say the work could aid HIV vaccine development.

They have published an atomic-level image in Nature showing the antibody, b12, attacking part of a protein on surface of the virus (Photo: Antibody (green) locks onto a key site on the virus).

HIV avoids attack by constantly mutating, but this protein segment is a weak spot because it remains stable.

Dr Elias Zerhouni, director of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), said: “Creating an HIV vaccine is one of the great scientific challenges of our time.

“NIH researchers and their colleagues have revealed a gap in HIV’s armour and have thereby opened a new avenue to meeting that challenge.”

Slippery foe

Developing a vaccine for HIV has proved extremely difficult.

The virus is able to mutate rapidly to avoid detection by the immune system, and is also swathed by a near-impenetrable cloak of sugary molecules which block access by antibodies.

But certain parts of the virus must remain relatively unchanged so that it can continue to bind to and enter human cells.

A protein, gp120, that juts out from the surface of the virus and binds to receptors on host cells, is one such region, making it a target for vaccine development.

Previous analysis of the blood of people who have been able to hold HIV at bay for long periods has revealed a rare group of antibodies – including b12 – that seem to fight HIV with a degree of success.

The latest study has revealed the detailed structure of the complex, which is formed when b12 docks with gp120.

Until now this has proved impossible, because of the flexible nature of some of the chemical bonds involved.

But the NIAID team were able to stiffen up the key protein enough to capture a picture of the complex.

They hope that revealing the structure of this bond in such precise detail will provide clues about how best to attack HIV.

Challenge ahead

Researcher Dr Gary Nabel said the work had revealed a “critical area of vulnerability on the virus”.

He said: “This is certainly one of the best leads to come along in recent years.”

Keith Alcorn, editor of the website, said vaccines based on antibodies had so far failed to produce promising results.

“These findings are very important because they show what sort of antibodies are likely to be most successful in neutralising HIV.

“Now the challenge is to develop vaccine products that can be tested in humans.”


Indian Network For People Living With HIV/AIDS Launches Campaign Against Illegal Clinics

The Indian Network for People Living With HIV/AIDS has launched a national campaign against illegal clinics whose workers claim to cure HIV/AIDS with herbal remedies and homeopathic treatments, Reuters reports. According to Reuters, many HIV-positive people in the country go to the illegal clinics because they cannot afford private treatment. In addition, the government health system often is seen as offering inadequate treatment. Discrimination and stigma against HIV-positive people at hospitals also have caused some people to visit the clinics, which advertise in newspapers, posters, fliers and graffiti. – Visit for the full article


Video: Myths about HIV and AIDS and why they are not true


There has been a tremendous amount of progress in increasing worldwide awareness about HIV and AIDS, and massive education and prevention efforts are ongoing. However, many people remain ignorant to the facts about HIV and AIDS and to how they can prevent the spread of the disease. In this video, Dr. Becky Kuhn, an HIV treatment specialist, talks about the top 10 myths on HIV and AIDS and explains why they are not true.

Dr. Becky Kuhn is the co-founder of Global Lifeworks, which is a not-for-profit organization with the goal of “Bridging Diverse Communities in the HIV/AIDS Pandemic”. The vision statement of this organization is: “to pioneer new and unique methods for HIV/AIDS awareness, education, and care for the purpose of improving the quality of life of those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS”. The website is full of information; it contains articles, blogs, videos, and photo galleries. I recommend that anyone interested in the worldwide AIDS pandemic visit and explore this worthwhile site. (from


Aids drug prices to fall if Gilead fails to defend patent application


NEW DELHI: Price of a crucial AIDS drug may fall further if Cipla and AIDS patients succeed in their challenge to a patent application filed here by US-based Gilead Sciences Inc.

Gilead Sciences Inc, which is set to defend its patent application for a block-buster AIDS drug before the government, has said that its Indian partners (10 Indian drug-makers) will not be required to pay the 5% royalty if it loses the case.

This is despite the fact that Gilead’s agreement with the Indian drug companies was inked well before the patent office started examining its application.

“As per our agreement with the Indian companies, we would not get any royalty if we do not get patent protection. We took the risk of giving our technology to Indian companies keeping the interest of patients in mind. We could have insisted on royalty even if we lost the case,” Gilead’s senior vice president and general counsel Gregg Alton told ET.

The hearing at the patent office, initially scheduled for Tuesday, has been postponed for a few days on technical grounds. “We are confident that we would get patent for Viread which has patent protection in 30 other countries including the US,” he said. “If we are granted a patent, there would be no change in the agreement with Indian companies.

They can continue to sell the drug in India and in 95 other countries for a 5% royalty. They are also free to make different dosage forms and combinations of the drug,” he said.

The agreement is valid till the life of the patent (20 years from grant of patent), after which the partners need not give any royalty.

To many, Gilead’s strategy of not demanding royalty if it fails to get a patent looks risky. In fact, the company was responsible for forcing Cipla to lower the price of its version of the drug by half (from about Rs 32,000 or $700) recently, by announcing non-exclusive manufacturing and marketing deals with the Indian companies.

“Cipla has already dropped the price 10 times since the drug was introduced in Indian market in 2000. With more manufacturers, the price would further drop noticeably,” Cipla joint MD Amar Lulla said.

Indian companies are expected to launch the generic version of Viread by the year end. There are about 50 lakh identified HIV patients in India, of which about 30 lakh are on treatment.


Clinton Makes AIDS Drug Deals – from AP/Karen Matthews

(NEW YORK) — Former President Bill Clinton announced agreements with drug companies Tuesday to lower the price in the developing world of AIDS drugs resistant to initial treatments and to make a once-a-day AIDS pill available for less than $1 a day.

The drugs to battle so-called “second-line” anti-retrovirals are needed by patients who develop a resistance to first-line treatment and currently cost 10 times as much, Clinton said. Nearly half a million patients will require these drugs by 2010.

Clinton’s foundation negotiated agreements with generic drug makers Cipla Ltd. and Matrix Laboratories Ltd. that he said would generate an average savings of 25 percent in low-income countries and 50 percent in middle-income countries.

Clinton also announced a reduced price for a once-daily first-line AIDS pill that combines the drugs tenofovir, lamivudine and efavirenz.

He said the new price of $339 per patient per year would be 45 percent lower than the current rate available to low-income countries and 67 percent less than the price available to many middle-income countries

The Clinton Foundation’s activities are being financed by UNITAID, an organization formed by France and 19 other nations that have earmarked a small portion of their airline tax revenues for HIV/AIDS programs in developing countries.

UNITAID will provide the foundation with more than $100 million to buy second-line medicines for 27 countries through 2008.

“Every person living with HIV deserves access to the most effective medicines, and UNITAID aims to ensure that these are affordable for all developing countries,” French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, chairman of UNITAID’s board, said in a statement.

Since starting its HIV/AIDS Initiative in 2002, the Clinton Foundation has worked with 25 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Asia to set up AIDS treatment and prevention programs.

The foundation also provides access to lower-priced AIDS drugs in 65 countries. Some 650,000 people are now receiving AIDS drugs purchased through the Clinton Foundation.

Clinton said Cipla and Matrix collaborated with the foundation to lower production costs in part by securing lower prices for raw materials.

Note: Making AIDS Drugs Available to Kids in the Developing World The Clinton Foundation has helped create an affordable single-pill treatment and negotiated lowered price for 19 other pediatric AIDS drugs