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Roche, Trimeris Plan to Make Antiretroviral Drug Fuzeon More Widely Available

April 16, 2004

The manufacturers of the antiretroviral drug Fuzeon have announced that the drug soon will be available in retail and specialty pharmacies, the Raleigh News & Observer reports (Vollmer, Raleigh News & Observer, 4/15). Swiss drug maker Roche and U.S. biotechnology company Trimeris jointly developed Fuzeon, which is in a class of drugs called fusion inhibitors and is designed for HIV/AIDS patients who have failed to respond to other medications (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/5). In order to make the drug available to patients, physicians previously had to fax a prescription to the drug's lone mail-order distributor, according to the News & Observer (Raleigh News & Observer, 4/15). However, Roche is expanding its manufacturing process to allow physicians to write prescriptions for Fuzeon that patients can take directly to pharmacies, Roche spokesperson Pamela Van Houton said, according to the AP/Long Island Newsday (Johnson, AP/Long Island Newsday, 4/15). Trimeris Vice President of Commercial Operations Walter Capone said that making the drug more widely available will "make it more convenient for patients" (Raleigh News & Observer, 4/15). Fuzeon will be available beginning April 26 in specialty and retail pharmacies, according to the AP/Newsday (AP/Long Island Newsday, 4/15).

Improving Sales
Sales of Fuzeon have been slower than many industry analysts expected. The drug has encountered resistance from doctors and patients because of its high cost and injection delivery method. The drug costs about $20,000 per patient per year (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/5). Roche says that the high cost of Fuzeon is attributable to its complex manufacturing process, which takes about six months and requires 44 different raw materials and more than 100 manufacturing steps, according to the AP/Newsday (AP/Long Island Newsday, 4/15). To increase demand for the drug, Trimeris said it is working on a new formula for Fuzeon that would reduce injections from twice daily to once per week or even less frequently, the News & Observer reports. Sharon Seiler, an industry analyst who tracks Trimeris, said that reducing the complicated administration of Fuzeon "could only help" (Raleigh News & Observer, 4/15).

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