New HIV Drug Commercially Available

A new class of HIV drugs called integrase inhibitors aims to help control the virus among untreated patients is now available. Merck and Co. has just presented its drug Isentress (generic name raltegravir), the first drug on the market in this new class. Isentress is being sold as a twice-a-day pill.

Researchers told during a meeting of the American Society of Microbiology and the Infectious Disease Society of America that they have discovered that Isentress works slightly better compared to an older HIV drug called efavirenz when it comes to suppressing levels of the AIDS virus.

Meanwhile, the United States Food and Drug Administration cleared Isentress for use in HIV patients whose infection has begun to resist the effects of other drugs. The resistance problem is common in AIDS virus infections.

This is why drug companies continue to develop new drugs to fight the dreaded virus, as well as having them approved for first-line treatment against HIV. Although the virus that causes AIDS still has no cure, a cocktail of various drugs can control the infection and keep patients healthy.

Merck estimates that about 500,000 patients in the United States are getting these drug cocktails, while 30 to 40 percent of them have developed resistance. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 1 million Americans are infected with HIV, while 33 million people around the world also suffer from this fatal and incurable virus.

In the last stage of testing before drugs could seek for FDA approval, researchers has found that Isentress have reduced HIV viral load to undetectable levels in 86 percent of patients compared to 82 percent of patients who were treated with a competing drug efavirenz.

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