| The big news in the AIDS wars from the pharmaceutical front
is that various combination of drugs, commonly called "cocktails",
including new protease inhibitors, are showing they can prolong the life
of some terminal AIDS patients by suppressing the viral load in the patient's
bloodstream. Good news? Perhaps, if you are one of the lucky few who will
ever see such expensive drug therapy. |
When used in combination, two or more members of the new protease inhibitors (most commonly ritonavir and saquinavir) can reduce the amount of AIDS virus in the bloodstream down to virtually undetectable levels in some infected patients. Word of this achievement first came during the 1996 11th International AIDS Conference in Vancouver. The combinations had a more potent effect against HIV that would be expected from either drug alone.
In other studies, combinations of one protease inhibitor drug with two older drugs like AZT and 3TC, which target a different component of the AIDs virus, have produced similar dramatic and sustained drops in the amount of HIV in the blood. Although the drugs apparently stopped replication of the virus in the blood, HIV always reappeared in the blood after treatment with the drugs was discontinued demonstrating that HIV continues to thrive in other areas of the body.
Additionally, these new drug combinations are highly toxic and often do massive damage to the liver and other major organs. Furthermore, even though the cocktail therapies will often result in an elevation of the patient's CD4 count, in every case when the drug therapy is discontinued (usually because of intolerable side effects) the patient's CD4 count goes right back down. Simply stated: protease inhibitors can lower HIV in the bloodstream but do NOT eradicate the virus from the body and HIV returns to pre-therapy levels in the blood when therapy is discontinued. The new drug cocktail drug combinations will NOT:
| The cost of the new drug therapy is about $25,000 per year
PER PATIENT. Imagine the profit potential. Multiply the 3 million (admitted
by the CDC) HIV-positive Americans times $25,000 per year. Go ahead...multiply
(if your calculator has that many zeros available on its screen). Due the
astronomical cost of these drugs, the projected number of U.S. AIDS patients
who might have access to them is said to be less than 10%. And just who
is going to decide who lives and dies? There are already enraged citizens
groups demanding equal access to the drugs which are almost always paid
for by taxpayer dollars. Forget about AIDS victims in Third World and developing
nations which are already virtually bankrupt from dealing with the AIDS
epidemic right now. They will never be able to afford these new chemical
treatments for their sick and dying. |
So, here is a new therapy, with an impossible price tag which will be available to a small percentage of AIDS victims and the pharmaceutical PR people are having a field day with it. One honest headline said: "NEW AIDS DRUGS HITTING THE MARKET". That about says it all.