Tuesday, July 17, 2012

HIV drug finally approved

By PETER NG’ETICH pngetich@ke.nationmedia.com

A drug that has been in use in the country for the last eight years and reduces HIV/Aids infection by about 96 per cent has been approved.

Truvada can be used in combination with others for prevention scientifically known as Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PreP).

The drug which reduces viral load in couples with one HIV-positive partner can also be used by gays and lesbians after results of studies showed that if a partner is put on early medication it reduced infection.

The drug which reduces viral load has been approved by United States of America’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that could see World Health Organisation (WHO) fast tracking guidelines to allow the pill to be used on a daily basis to prevent the scourge.

FDA is a top advisory panel that advices USA on promoting public health through regulation and supervision of food safety, tobacco products, dietary supplements, prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceutical drugs , vaccines, biopharmaceuticals, blood transfusions, medical devices, electromagnetic radiation emitting devices  and veterinary products.

Last month, WHO recommended that married HIV positive people whose partners are not infected be put on anti-retrovirals irrespective of their viral load.

WHO Major decisions on when and to whom these pills will be available are expected to be made at the 19th International Aids Conference planned for Washington on Sunday.

While the global health organisation promises to have the guidelines ready by July next year it also indicates that people may not wait that long to know whether they can indeed get and use the pill.

Dr Robert Grant, associate director of the Centre for Aids Research at the University of California, San Francisco, who led the panel's research, said the move was a major milestone.

"I think we are in an era for the first time when we can see the end of the AIDS epidemic," Dr Grant said.

Truvada has been marketed since 2004 as a treatment for people who are infected with the virus.

The medication is a combination of two older HIV drugs, Emtriva and Viread and doctors usually prescribe it as part of a drug cocktail to suppress the virus.

With the clean bill of health for the drug the debate is whether it will lead to reduced use of condoms, the most reliable defence against HIV.

Researchers also questioned the drug's effectiveness in women, who have shown much lower rates of protection.

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