Bloomberg News (05.09.12) - Thursday, May 10, 2012
AIDS advocates are divided about whether the potential
approval of the first pill to prevent HIV infection will
advance public health efforts to curb the epidemic.
The Food and Drug Administration is considering whether to
approve Gilead Sciences Inc.'s Truvada for groups at high risk
of HIV infection. A study cited by FDA shows it can reduce the
risk of HIV by up to 94 percent for people who took the pill
as prescribed. However, other trials indicated just 10 percent
of participants adhered to prescribing instructions, and one
study was halted after no benefit was seen. The $14,000-a-year
drug is already approved for treating HIV infection.
"Among our own patients who are HIV-positive, we have
difficulty getting them to adhere, let alone people who don't
have the disease," said AIDS Healthcare Foundation President
Michael Weinstein. AHF provides medical care for 130,000
Some advocates worry Truvada's approval could encourage
unprotected sex. "If you have this new option, would you be
riskier? There is no evidence to show that might be the case,
but that doesn't mean it's not a concern," said Mitchell
Warren, executive director of AVAC: Global Advocacy for HIV
James Loduca, spokesperson for the San Francisco AIDS
Foundation, said approving Truvada as a pre-exposure
prophylaxis would help certain people avoid infection during
particular times in their lives. "We don't think PrEP is a
lifetime prevention tool," he said. "It would be used in a
targeted way for specific population and in relatively short
periods of time."
"If deployed correctly and efficiently, it could make a big
dent in the epidemic in the US," said Howard Jaffe, president
and chair of the Gilead Foundation.