Tests Expanded on Unproven AIDS Vaccines

By Freudenheim, Milt | THE JOURNAL RECORD, December 9, 1992 | Go to article overview

Tests Expanded on Unproven AIDS Vaccines


Freudenheim, Milt, THE JOURNAL RECORD


By Milt Freudenheim

N.Y. Times News Service

Government agencies approved plans last week to expand testing of several unproven AIDS vaccines, but government and company researchers are still far from a pharmaceutical solution to the AIDS problem.

Scientists say that combining AZT with other drugs that attack the virus offer more immediate promise than the vaccines.

Advocates for people with AIDS are not sanguine about either vaccines or the anti-viral drugs, which mainly buy time for patients by slowing progression of the disease. The advocates are urging President-elect Bill Clinton's transition team to order an evaluation, which they hope would lead to a shakeup of the government's $1.08 billion-a-year AIDS research effort.

Besides AZT, a Burroughs-Wellcome drug, two chemically similar drugs, Bristol-Myers Squibb's DDI and Hoffmann-La Roche's recently approved DDC, can be used with AZT or as a successor treatment. Bristol-Myers Squibb recently received premarketing approval for d4T, a fourth member of the same family, which it will make widely available during testing.

Mathilde Krim, a scientist who heads the American Foundation for AIDS Research in New York, said patients who took the anti-viral drugs in combinations could reduce the doses. The drugs' toxic effects differ and the combinations may be effective longer than AZT by itself.

"The bad news is that none of these drugs are very effective for long periods of time," said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "What we need are drugs or combinations of drugs which, when given early, can prolong the disease-free state for 10 to 20 years instead of three years."

A new generation of anti-viral drugs is moving into early tests for safety and efficacy. They include Roche's TAT, an enzyme inhibitor, and protease inhibitors, another group that Fauci said may start tests "reasonably soon."

Half a dozen companies are also working on genetic engineering that involves so-called anti-sense or mirror images of molecules to block the HIV virus. None are ready for human testing against AIDS. But Isis, a biotechnology company in Carlsbad, Calif., is testing an anti-sense drug for papilloma, non-cancerous skin tumors.

"Gene therapy may be one of the important avenues," said Viren Mehta, a securities analyst with Mehta Isaly World Wide Pharmaceutical Research. He noted that a number of biotechnology companies were also studying recombinant proteins and monoclonal antibodies. …

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