Preventative drug might be a nod of hope for people at high-risk of HIV infection
May 16, 2012 | 2:03 pm
(Updated: February 25, 2013 | 11:05 am)
An F.D.A advisory panel backed the use of Truvada, a drug currently used to control existing HIV infections, as a preventative measure for people at high risk of infection. Those engaging in risky behavior could take the virus-suppressing drug on a regular basis, which can reduce the risk of infection if they are exposed to the virus through an infected person.
The panel of experts said better methods of prevention are need since the numbers of those newly infected with H.I.V. continues to grow despite other preventative measures.
There are some doubts surrounding the use of a drug to prevent HIV infection – some panelists feared that people who do get infected while taking the drug might develop new drug-resistant strains of the virus. The effectiveness of Truvada in preventing HIV infection is mixed in research; some patients were infected despite taking the drug, but many cases it appeared to stem from taking the pill as directed, some because they thought they were not at risk for the virus.
Due to the failure of these studies the medical and advocacy group AIDS Healthcare Foundation opposes the use of Truvada as a preventative measure. Denise Grady for The New York Times wrote, “[it] could backfire, leaving people vulnerable while lulling them into believing that sex without condoms is safe,” but that it is arguable.
Gilead Sciences, the pharmaceutical company that sells Truvada, promised outreach in in exchange for the tremendous gains in profits the company would receive if large numbers of people began using Truvada as a preventative measure: The company offered to promote counseling, regular H.I.V. testing and subsidized tests for viral resistence for those who do become infected.
Matthew Rose of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association acknowledged Truvada is certainly not a cure, but called it a nod of hope to him and his friends who have all been in a high-risk group since they were young.
F.D.A. Panel Backs Preventative Use of H.I.V. Drug [NYT]