New HIV Drug

October 13, 2007

(CNN) — The Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved the first of a new class of HIV drugs that attacks the virus in a different way. Isentress, developed by Merck & Co., is designed for patients who have shown resistance to current treatments.

The drug has been approved for adults who already have been receiving treatment, but more testing is necessary before it is approved for new HIV patients or children, the company said in a statement. Isentress belongs to a class of drugs called integrase inhibitors. These drugs work by blocking the integrase enzyme, which helps HIV replicate by inserting its DNA into new cells. Isentress is the first drug in the class to win FDA approval.

“Its mechanism of action is particularly important in that it blocks the ability of the virus to integrate itself into the genes of cells,” Fauci said. “This property of the virus to integrate is important in establishing the reservoir of virus in the body that has made it extremely difficult to eradicate HIV, even with prolonged treatment.”

Two earlier classes of anti-HIV drugs — protease and reverse transcriptase inhibitors — also work by blocking different enzymes involved in HIV replication. Friday’s decision by the FDA will give doctors a new tool to help patients who have developed resistance to existing drugs or who are infected with drug-resistant strains of HIV. Like protease and reverse transcriptase inhibitors, Isentress will also be prescribed for patients in combination with other drugs to maximize the number of ways the virus is being attacked. The cost of the recommended daily regimen of Isentress — a 400 mg tablet taken twice a day — will be comparable to protease inhibitors, with a wholesale price of $27, Merck said.

HIV in the Media

October 10, 2007

This video is generating a good deal of controversy in the gay community, this is what reported on the ad.

Some gay bloggers have told filmmaker Eric Leven his AIDS PSA’s “fear-based”. And, you know what, he’s okay with that. HIV commercials should be fucking scary – or, at least, jarring. This one’s both. In an interview with Michael Crawford from Bloggernista, Leven explains his – er – position:

“I’ve been through the ranks of gay life. I’ve seen it in its most beautiful and darkest arenas. I want to take these experiences and shine light on them. Expose them for what they are and nothing less. I want gay men to start realizing the realities of their own community. I want them to step up to the plate and be a man (whether you’re wearing leather or a dress!) I want them to start taking their lives seriously and thinking before they act.”

Because HIV is something that affects the whole world, it is important that HIV/AIDS education be effective. I think by now, much of the world understands how it happens and many have an idea of what they can do to prevent it. But that doesn’t guarantee people will actually take those precautions even if they know it is a good idea. I absolutely agree with the writers over at, I think ads related to HIV/AIDS should be incredibly scary, so people get it. HIV is scary. And since the main path of transmission is sex, which is incredibly temping and glamorized, campaigns need to be particularly jarring. So I figured I would share some of my favorite HIV/AIDS awareness print campaigns.



I also think the approach of showing real people dealing with it is incredibly effective. There are campaigns taht show people with AIDS who are wasting away and there are also campaigns with people who look completely normal, both can be powerful.



There is also a site I like, Positive Lives, that has pictures with the associated stories on it. It is organized by region of the world.

“Positive Lives is a unique international project that photographs and documents the social and emotional impact of the global HIV/AIDS epidemic, illuminating positive human responses to this world crisis. By sharing these stories, we can all face the challenges, myths, and prejudices surrounding HIV/AIDS.

No matter what are an individual’s prejudice, the virus does not discriminate. HIV affects us all”

Pfizer’s new HIV drug

September 25, 2007

After the unfortunate failure of the Merck HIV vaccine, I figured I should share a promising development in the battle against HIV/AIDS.

LONDON, Sept 24 (Reuters) – Pfizer Inc., the world’s largest drugmaker, said on Monday the European Commission had approved its AIDS drug Celsentri, the first in a new class of oral HIV medicines. The drug — which is known generically as maraviroc and as Selzentry in the United States — is the first designed to keep the HIV virus that causes AIDS from entering healthy immune cells. Older AIDS medicines attack the virus itself. It works by blocking the CCR5 co-receptor that serves as a main doorway for the HIV virus into immune cells. The green light from the European authorities had been expected after a panel of EU experts recommended the product in July. The medicine was also cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last month. Celsentri is approved for use in patients who have tried other medicines and for whom a diagnostic test has confirmed their HIV strain is linked to the CCR5 receptor. New York-based Pfizer is counting on new medicines such as Celsentri to help drive profits as several blockbusters lose patent protection and its top-selling Lipitor cholesterol treatment faces strong competition. Industry analysts have projected annual Celsentri sales of about $500 million by 2011.

Vaccines: The good, the bad, and the ugly.

September 23, 2007

The Good:

More research has confirmed what we already know, Gardasil is an amazing vaccine that women everywhere should get.  It is also an incredibly wise business investment as it becomes more widely available.  Merck is rolling in the money.

  • New data shows a vaccine against the virus that causes cervical cancer partially blocks infection by 10 strains of the virus on top of the four types the vaccine targets. Gardasil is the only cervical cancer vaccine on the market, approved for sale in 85 countries and pending approval in 40 more; it has racked up about $1 billion in sales since its June 2006 U.S. launch. GlaxoSmithKline PLC is awaiting approval of its own vaccine, Cervarix. There are more than 60 strains of the HPV virus. About 15 are thought to cause cervical cancer; Gardasil protects against 12 of those, plus another two that cause genital warts but not cancer. Two strains cause 70 percent of cervical cancer. Merck studies following 17,600 young women for three years found the vaccine to be 99 percent effective in blocking those strains. “There’s the potential for an additional 30,000 to 40,000 cancer cases being prevented each year,” mostly in developing countries, based on preliminary estimates and widespread vaccination in those regions, said Dr. Eliav Barr, head of Merck’s research on infectious disease and vaccines. There are 9,710 new cases of cervical cancer and 3,700 deaths in the U.S. each year. Worldwide, there are nearly 500,000 new cases and 233,000 deaths a year.  (Source)

The Bad:

Another major setback in the battle against the HIV pandemic.  Merck lost a lot of money in this vaccine, good thing they make Gardasil.

  • Merck’s promising HIV vaccine has failed in large scale tests. The vaccine did not prevent HIV transmission or reduce the average number of viral particles. It was widely considered the most promising vaccine. It used a novel approach of T cell synthesis as opposed to typical antibody stimulation. It was a major setback in the mission of finding a viable vaccine for complex virus. A vaccine is generally regarded as the only viable solution for an epidemic of HIV’s magnitude that reaches across so many continents and into such poor regions of the world. This is in no way the end of the search, just merely a tragic bump on the way. I honestly believe there will be an effective, widely distributed vaccine in my life time. I look forward to the day.  (Source)

The Ugly:

  • There is a group of people out there who don’t believe in vaccination. To me they are kind of like insurance fraud criminals, everyone pays for their crimes. Now I won’t deal with those who refuse all vaccines, as they don’t deserve to be dealt with. But there is a group that is growing in size and popularity. Those who refuse to have their children vaccinated with the MMR vaccine (mumps, measles, rubella). A 1998 paper pointed out a link (not a causal relationship) between the vaccine and autism. The paper has been largely disregarded by the scientific community and no evidence of a relationship has been found. But there is one group still clinging to the article, mothers of autistic children. While I agree the autistic are an underrepresented group because of their communication problems and that they need a voice, I think that blaming the vaccine is the wrong approach for the group. While I doubt there is a relationship between the vaccine and autism for children where autism was not already a likely outcome, I would not say it is not possible. But what is important to consider is giving up the KNOWN advantages of the vaccine to avoid POSSIBLE UNKNOWN disadvantages. I believe individuals should be able to opt out of vaccines for their children, that more research should be done, and that potentially changing the dosing schedule to either a smaller dose or to start later in childhood may be helpful. But it is irresponsible for these groups to publicly denounce an important and effective vaccine. There words create doubt and increase the likelihood of parental refusal of MMR. Current research indicates the number of MMR vaccinations is decreasing and correspondingly the measles rate is soaring. I recently saw an example of this vacciphobic argument on Oprah. Jenny McCarthy (hot actress/mother of an autistic child) directly blames her son’s autism on the MMR vaccine. While I respect what she is doing because she thinks it will help others and that she isn’t hiding her child like some celebrities do (cough. John Travolta), she didn’t mention where she went to medical school in the interview.  (Source)