I¡¯m Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Health Report.
Myers Squibb and Gilead Sciences have combined many H.I.V. drugs
into a single pill
Sometimes the best medicine is more than one kind
of medicine. Malaria, tuberculosis and H.I.V./AIDS, for example, are all
treated with combinations of drugs.
But that can mean a lot of pills to take. It would be simpler if drug
companies combined all the medicines into a single pill, taken just once a
Now, two companies say they have done that for people just starting
treatment for H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. The companies are
Bristol-Myers Squibb and Gilead Sciences.
They have developed a single pill that combines three drugs currently
on the market. Bristol-Myers Squibb sells one of them under the name
Sustiva. Gilead combined the others, Emtriva and Viread, into a single
pill in two thousand four.
Combining drugs involves more than technical issues. It also involves
issues of competition if the drugs are made by different companies. The
new once-daily pill is the result of what is described as the first joint
venture agreement of its kind in the treatment of H.I.V.
In January the New England Journal of Medicine published a study of the
new pill. Researchers compared its effectiveness to that of the widely
used combination of Sustiva and Combivir. Combivir contains two drugs, AZT
and 3TC. The researchers say that after one year of treatment, the new
pill suppressed H.I.V. levels in more patients and with fewer side
Gilead paid for the study. Professor Joel Gallant at the Johns Hopkins
School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, led the research. He is a paid
adviser to Gilead and Bristol-Meyers Squibb as well as the maker of
GlaxoSmithKline reacted to the findings by saying that a single study
is of limited value. It says the effectiveness of Combivir has been shown
in each of more than fifty studies.
The price of the new once-daily pill has not been announced. But Gilead
and Bristol-Myers Squibb say they will provide it at reduced cost to
They plan in the next few months to ask the United States Food and Drug
Administration to approve the new pill.
There are limits to who could take it because of the different drugs it
contains. For example, pregnant women are told not to take Sustiva because
of the risk of birth disorders.
Experts say more than forty million people around the world are living
This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Cynthia Kirk.
Read and listen to our reports at voaspecialenglish.com. I¡¯m Steve Ember.