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Drug Holds Promise Against AIDS
Date:7/24/2008

Medication helps those with HIV who become treatment-resistant, study shows

THURSDAY, July 24 (HealthDay News) -- New research offers more evidence that a new AIDS drug brings significant benefits to patients who have failed other treatments.

The drug, known as raltegravir (Isentress), almost doubles the likelihood that patients will beat back the AIDS virus despite being immune to other medications, according to a study in the July 24 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

"We now have a drug that can bring many people back from a downward curve with no hope for resurrection of the immune system and no hope for control of the virus," said study author Dr. Roy Steigbigel, head of the HIV Center at Stony Brook University.

The federal government has already approved raltegravir for use in so-called "salvage therapy," based on early findings from this study. But the completed research -- funded by Merck & Co., the drug's manufacturer -- shows that the raltegravir continues to work over time, Steigbigel said.

While AIDS has become much more treatable over the past 12 years, thanks to a new generation of drugs, some patients continue to develop resistance to medications. Despite the medical advances, the AIDS virus in the body can learn to evolve into new forms that aren't susceptible to the killing power of drugs.

Patients who don't follow their drug regimens to the letter are most likely to become immune to the drugs, but even the most careful patients can develop resistance, Steigbigel said.

To complicate matters, some patients are immune to drugs, because they were infected by someone with a resistant strain of the AIDS virus.

Raltegravir is unique, because it's part of a new class of AIDS drugs, meaning the virus hasn't encountered it before. "There aren't going to be viruses out there that are resistant to this," Steigbigel said. "That's why it's considered
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