Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche Holding Ltd. said Wednesday
that it plans to stop selling its Fortovase HIV medication in
early 2006, saying demand for the pill has slackened as
prescribers moved to its new formulation of the same drug.
Roche's newer formulation of an older drug, Invirase, uses the
same active ingredient as Fortovase but is smaller, does not need
refrigeration, and is better tolerated by the digestive system.
For these reasons, Invirase has increasingly become the preferred
formulation, the company said.
"We've taken great care to plan this discontinuation in such a
manner as to allow physicians and patients adequate time to
consider and transition to boosted Invirase," said Frederick
Schmid, vice president of virology and HIV at Roche.
Invirase was originally approved by the Food and Drug
Administration in 1995, the first of a class of drugs that block
the protease enzyme, the company said. Fortovase was first
approved in 1997.
In 2003, the FDA approved Invirase for use in boosted dosing
regimens with ritonavir - another common HIV treatment - which
improved its levels in the blood and allowed for twice-daily
dosing. In December, the agency approved a 500 milligram tablet
of the drug.