Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Anticipating the Once-a-Day Pill: A New Daily Anti-HIV Pill Is Likely to Become Available Later This Year. Some Patients Can't Wait, Some Are Happy to Stick with What They've Got, and Many Won't Have an Option

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

Anticipating the Once-a-Day Pill: A New Daily Anti-HIV Pill Is Likely to Become Available Later This Year. Some Patients Can't Wait, Some Are Happy to Stick with What They've Got, and Many Won't Have an Option

Article excerpt

Since being diagnosed with HIV in the early 1990s, Robin--who declined to give his last name--has been on several different anti-HIV drug regimens. They've saved his life, but it hasn't been easy. Some involved multiple pills--most with debilitating side effects--and multiple daily doses that Robin may have had difficulty adhering to were it not for his self-described meticulous nature.

But things have been getting easier for the 46-year-old gay man from Orlando, Fla. Recently he was able to simplify his regimen to just two pills a day. And now a new once-a-day HIV pill is promising an even better life. "It's going to be sweet," says Robin, who travels a lot for work. "It's going to be a lot easier to have one pill to remember to bring with me on my trips, and one pill to remember to take every day."

Drugmakers Bristol-Myers Squibb and Gilead Sciences announced in January that they've successfully layered BMS's Sustiva into a single pill with Gilead's Truvada, which itself is a combination of the drugs Viread and Emtriva. The companies plan to file a marketing application with the Food and Drug Administration in the second quarter; if approved as expected, the pill could be available by the end of the year. HIV treatment experts say the combination pill will be a godsend for those like Robin whose virus can be controlled by its three component drugs and for newly diagnosed HIVers whose first regimen will now be simple to take.

But the new pill won't be the HIV-treatment fix-all some have imagined. In fact, many of the patients currently taking anti-HIV drugs will not be able to switch to the once-daily therapy. "For our patient population, the major consideration is going to be whether their virus still responds to the meds in the once-a-day pill," says Michael Gottlieb, a Los Angeles-area physician who reported the nation's first AIDS cases in 1981.

"If they've already been through several regimens, as many of them have, it's not going to be a choice available to them."

That's the case for Paul Kusler, 41, a gay resident of Montclair, N.J. Currently he's on what's known as a "salvage" regimen that includes a boosted protease inhibitor and the injectable fusion inhibitor Fuzeon--drugs he can't give up if he hopes to keep his virus under control. "I'd love to be able to take just one pill a day, because right now treatment is like a ball and chain that's always with me," Kusler says. …

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