Another step closer to eliminate HIV/AIDS
HIV has plagued the world, with Africa the most affected for many years now. And I never imagined we would actually see a potential antidote that will permanently suppress or even eradicate HIV during my lifetime. Through human trials in the fight against the disease, today HIV is no more a death sentence like it once was in the early days. And we attribute to this man Dr David Ho. In 1996, this Taiwanese-American HIV/AIDS researcher created the Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy or HAART that is the base foundation for modern HIV treatment. Today we are celebrating another milestone in the HIV research. This is the HIV injectable drug, called PRO 140 that may someday give an alternative to the daily pills that some people are currently taking to prolong their lives. The drug was produced by a company called CytoDyn Inc., and offers HIV patients a new alternative to the pills regimen with their PRO 140 weekly HIV antibody injection. According to the media reports, an injectable HIV treatment is entering advanced clinical trials, potentially freeing millions of men and women living with the virus from pills. Researchers behind the ejection say the once-a-week injections could help people living with the virus lead more normal lives. It is reported that PRO 140 stops HIV replication without stopping any of the immune function, prolonged antiviral activity and tolerability. Apart from that the drug which is a monoclonal antibody, or immune protein, that targets HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, also reportedly contains different resistance profile compared to any HIV drug and hardly any toxicity (unlike all HAART drugs). In the latest phase of studies testing the drug’s effectiveness, it was reported that PRO 140 suppressed the viral loads to undetectable levels in 98 percent of patients for at least one month. Some of those who are HIV-positive saw their condition in near complete remission for 11 months. Nader Pourhassan is head of CytoDyn, the biotech company that has developed the injectable HIV medication. He was quoted as saying that PRO 140 could become available in once a week, two-dose treatments in 2017 if all goes well in the advanced trials. He says it would cost under US$40,000 per year, less than HAART, or highly active antiretroviral therapy, to treat the AIDS virus. “The injection targets a specific version of HIV known as R5 exclusive that is active in 85 percent of early stage HIV patients, and 50 percent of late stage patients,” he was quoted as saying. If proven effective, the drug could help a significant number of the estimated 33 million people around the world living with HIV. Currently, most HIV patients take nearly 30 antiretroviral pills per week, for the rest of their lives, to keep the virus in check. Although ARVs have been known to prolong many people’s lives, the pills are also known to cause side effects such as kidney and liver damage, psychiatric problems and in some cases, resistance to further treatment. In the trials, Pourhassan was quoted saying participants had to stop their oral treatments and switch to injectable drug. Consequently, CytoDyn’s phase 2b clinical trial, give patients a drug holiday from all their pills and allows them to be only on PRO 140 once a week injection. With a 98 percent success rate for one month drug holiday, and with the 14 patients that have continued to use it after the said trial, now on its eight months trailing, and seeing success at controlling the virus without any pills (HAART), the report reads. The clinical trial is reportedly to have started in 2006 and obtained the U.S Food and Drug administration (FDA) fast track designation and National Institute of Health (NIH) funding of over US$20 million in the last 12 years.