Health Canada Approves HIV-AIDS Drug

December 2, 2007

Scanning Electron Micrograph of HIV-1 Budding from Cultured Lymphocyte.  Multiple Round Bumps on Cell Surface Represent Sites of Assembly and Budding of VirionsHealth Canada has approved a new HIV-drug, Isentress. The medicine, the first in a new class of medications designed to treat HIV-positive patients who have multiple resistances to other HIV drugs, is known generically as raltegravir. Isentress, manufactured by Merck-Frosst, is an integrase-inhibitor, blocking the integrase enzyme which the HIV virus needs to insert its DNA into the chromosomes of host cells. Gilead Sciences of Foster City, California is also developing eltegravir, another integrase inhibitor.

Dr. Mark Wainberg, an AIDS expert and McGill University professor who practices at Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, was quoted on CTV as saying: “The amount of virus in the bloodstream goes down much faster with this drug than with other drugs. . .I think it is a drug that has the potential to do so much good. You know, there are even things we hope we can do with it that we don’t want to talk about (yet).”

Dr. Mark Wainberg, AIDS Expert and McGill University ProfessorRaltegravir will be used with other antiretroviral medications to treat HIV-1 infections in “treatment-experienced” adults who are experiencing drug resistance and viral replication. It’s been demonstrated in clinical trials that when raltegravir is used in combination with other antiretrovirals, CD4 cell counts and viral loads — the two most widely used measures of successful treatment of HIV/AIDS — decrease. Development of new AIDS drugs is important because, much like the flu, the HIV virus can gradually develop drug resistance.

Isentress was approved in mid-October by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and is the first integrase inhibitor available for HIV/AIDS treatment on a global basis. According to statistics from AVERT, an international AIDS charity, 20,493 Canadians had tested positive for AIDS by June 2006, while 61,423 Canadians tested positive for the HIV virus: a total of 81,916 patients diagnosed with HIV/AIDS which has likely increased.

Read more about AIDS.

Photo credit: CDC / W. R. McManus. Photo: C. Goldsmith and McGill University

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