A new HIV medication now approved for use in New Zealand is giving renewed hope to people fighting HIV infection and AIDS, according to a leading HIV physician and the NZ AIDS Foundation. Currently fifty people with HIV who were coming to the end of the line of suitable HIV medications are using Isentress, which until now has only been available on a compassionate access scheme while government agencies debated whether to allow it to be prescribed more broadly. However, funding for Isentress, a Merck brand name for raltegravir, one of a new class of anti-HIV drugs called integrase inhibitors, may be some way off, perhaps as much as two years away, according to pharmaceutical industry sources. Integrase inhibitors work by preventing HIV viral DNA inserting into human DNA, thereby blocking the ability of the virus to replicate and infect new cells. "This is great news for people with HIV infection, and for the doctors treating them, as there is a real need for new HIV treatments in New Zealand," says Dr Simon Briggs, of Auckland Hospital's Infectious Diseases department. "Resistance to current HIV therapies in treatment-experienced patients is a major concern," says the NZAF's National Positive Health Manager, Eamonn Smythe, who notes that because integrase inhibitors are a totally new class of drug it is unlikely that any patients will have resistance problems. Additionally, at this early stage of its use, it appears to have no substantive side-effecfts, unlike many other HIV drugs. "Used in combination with existing HIV medications, integrase inhibitors can be of huge benefit to patients who have developed resistance to other drugs. There are people in this position in New Zealand today whom this could benefit, and it could also be of benefit to many more people in the future," says Smythe.
Credit: GayNZ.com Daily News staff
First published: Wednesday, 17th September 2008 - 1:08am
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