WASHINGTON -- The pharmaceutical research industry is continuing its effort to develop more effective ways to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS, with 83 new medicines in development, a new survey by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) shows.
"In addition to the 80 medicines already approved, these new medicines in the pipeline demonstrate the pharmaceutical research industry's commitment to combat this terrible scourge that afflicts patients all over the world," said PhRMA president Alan F. Holmer. "We'll continue until we've conquered the disease."
The medicines in development, all of which are either in human clinical trials or are awaiting approval by the FDA, include 15 vaccines. Vaccine research is considered crucial to control the AIDS pandemic.
* One vaccine in development is designed to induce different types of immune response, enhancing the overall immune response. The first dose primes the body to induce cellular immunity, while the booster dose induces neutralizing antibodies.
* Another vaccine candidate combines DNA snippets from the AIDS virus with a protein that boosts the immune response. The aim is not to prevent infection but to limit the damage the virus causes.
Examples of other AIDS medicines in the pipeline include:
* A medicine -- the first in a new class called integrase inhibitors -- designed to block an enzyme that the virus needs to make copies of itself;
* An antisense gene therapy that uses two novel techniques to boost immune responsiveness against HIV;
* An antifungal that is the first in a new class of medicines known as echinocandins. Deadly fungal infections often attack the weakening immune systems of AIDS patients. The drug targets the wall of invasive fungal cells.
Because drug research is risky and at the leading edge of science, not all of these 83 medicines in development will ultimately be approved for patients. However, some of these medicines will advance the state of the art for treating HIV/AIDS.
The first AIDS medicine was developed in 1987, just four years after the HIV virus was identified. Since the early 1990s, medicines have helped to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV by two-thirds. And since the mid-1990s, when the first protease inhibitors were launched and combination drug therapy was introduced, the U.S. death rate from AIDS has dropped about 70 percent. New treatments have also reduced hospitalization and the total cost of care.
Despite the progress, AIDS remains a devastating and growing worldwide health problem, generally in developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, and in China, Russia, and India. An estimated 5 million new HIV infections occurred worldwide during 2002 -- about 14,000 each day.
From 1998 to 2002, pharmaceutical companies contributed $2.7 billion to improve health care in the developing world. Projects include building HIV/AIDS clinics, AIDS education and prevention programs, and programs to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV as well as donations of medicines for AIDS and related diseases. Companies are also providing AIDS drugs at significantly reduced prices in 18 countries. In addition to pharmaceutical company contributions, a massive international effort is needed to cope with the pandemic.
PhRMA represents the country's leading research-based pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, which are devoted to inventing medicines that allow patients to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives. The industry invested an estimated $32 billion in 2002 in discovering and developing new medicines. PhRMA companies are leading the way in the search for new cures and treatments.
Source: Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America