New HIV drug will help millions

Statistics released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicate that as many as 33 million people worldwide are currently living with the HIV virus which also killed 2 million people in 2007.

Even though a plateau appears to have been reached in the number of new cases, this year already another 2.5 million people have contracted the virus.

However the battle against the devastating disease will soon have an added tool in its arsenal of two dozen drugs which fight the HIV virus.

The Food and Drug Administration in the United States has given approval for a new HIV drug to be used for patients with resistance to other therapies.

The drug, Intelence, is produced by Johnson & Johnson and is also known as TMC125 or etravirine.

Etravirine is the latest addition to a class of drugs called non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTI).

The drug works by helping to block an enzyme which the HIV virus needs to multiply and will be used in combination with other anti-HIV medications.

The approval comes after trials with the drug on 599 adults which found following 24 weeks of treatment that patients who received etravirine along with background therapy experienced more reductions in the level of HIV in their blood than those who received a placebo and background therapy.

The researchers say etravirine represents a breakthrough in NNRTI drugs and provides a new option to thousands of patients whose infections do not respond to currently available medications.

The FDA warns that the drug could have side effects such as rash and nausea, and rare cases of serious skin reactions such as Stevens-Johnson syndrome and erythema multiforme have been reported and the long-term effects are unknown.

The drug is taken in tablet form and is expected to cost around $5.45 per tablet; the recommended dose is two tablets twice a day.

The FDA says the drug may interact with other medications and patients should inform their doctors and pharmacists about all the medications they take.

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