Hopes raised by new HIV treatment

A new antiretroviral drug could "substantially" improve survival rates among people living with HIV, it has been claimed.

According to a Spanish study published today in the Lancet medical journal, a combination of the protease inhibitor darunavir and a low dose of existing antiretroviral drug ritonavir resulted in two-thirds of test subjects experiencing a tenfold reduction in HIV RNA levels – the genetic material that constitutes HIV.

In comparison, only 15 per cent of a control group of HIV sufferers receiving conventional treatments reached this proportion during the 48-week long study.

Dr Bonaventura Clotet of Barcelona's Hospital Universitari and his team say there is an "urgent need" for improved HIV-treating drugs due to the sizeable rates of failure in existing drug combinations.

The scientists say that over six-year periods, one in five HIV patients will be failed by their medication.

In an accompanying article, Dr Rodger MacArthur of Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan cautioned that a further comparison between darunavir-ritonavir and tripranavir-ritonavir would be necessary to determine the true effectiveness of the new treatment.

But he added: "For now, all of us treating HIV-infected individuals in clinical practice will probably rejoice in the availability of darunavir, since it seems to be a safe, well-tolerated, and truly effective agent against multi-drug resistant HIV."

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