HIV drug effective in suppressing virus in lower doses

In what could be a boon for HIV sufferers, Australian scientists are optimistic they’ve discovered a way for millions more people to get access to crucial antiretroviral drugs.

They have found a new life-saving HIV drug therapy. According to them, lower daily dose of important antiretroviral drugs (ART) is just as effective in suppressing the virus and far cheaper, than the standard recommended dosage regime. Consequently, the therapy could reduce costs and more people could benefit from treatment.

Professor Sean Emery from the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales stated, “This has the potential to affect the treatment of millions of HIV positive people. A reduced daily dose should translate into a lower cost of treatment and permit more effective and efficient use of health care resources. Essentially, more people could receive this life-saving treatment for the same amount of funding.”

The ENCORE1 study
In order to examine the safety and efficacy of lower doses of HIV drug therapy, researchers conducted a study, known as ENCORE1. The focus was to compare the safety and effectiveness of a reduced dose of efavirenz (EFV) in HIV-positive people who have not previously taken HIV therapy.

The study which began in 2010 is being conducted in 38 clinical sites in 13 countries in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and Latin America. For this large international, multicentre, randomised double-blind placebo-controlled trial the researchers recruited 630 HIV positive patients.

Half the patients were given two-thirds of the current standard daily dose of EFV (a commonly used treatment for HIV) while the other half were assigned to the standard daily dose. The participants were monitored for a period of one year. The findings of the study indicate that a lower daily dose is just as safe and effective as the higher dose recommended for people with HIV infection.

Emery stated, “We were interested in approaches to reducing the cost of providing antiretroviral drugs to people around the world. We’ve been able to show with some very robust data that it is possible to administer a reduced daily dose of an important antiretroviral drug to people with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus).

“We can do that safely in a way that doesn’t affect the ability of that drug to save their life and it’s also associated with some reduced side effects.”

The international study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was presented at the International AIDS Society Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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