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Why It's Important to Eat When Taking Viracept

August/September 2002

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

Drug companies given fast licensing approval are required by the federal government to try to improve their products -- it's called 'phase IV' studies. Companies must continue to study their new HIV drugs to see what happens in the long run.

Agouron, the company that invented Viracept (nelfinavir), the most widely used protease inhibitor, is continuing to study this drug. In these studies, scientists found out something EVERYONE taking Viracept should know.

It turns out that how good a drug is might depend -- in the case of protease inhibitors -- on how much gets into the cell, the so-called "intracellular level" of the drug. Because some drugs get into cells better and stay longer than other drugs, the amount of drug in the bloodstream is not the only factor in how well the drug will perform.

Scientists have figured out some drugs like Epivir (3TC) for example, last a lot longer in a cell than it does in the blood, so previous decisions on how often to dose it based on blood readings are inaccurate. As a result, we now know it is OK to use some of these types of drugs once a day instead of twice or three times a day.

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It appears from recent studies that different people are born with different abilities to get rid of drugs from the insides of their cells. Researchers have been able to identify the gene that gets drugs out of cells, and depending on what kind of variation on this gene a person has, they do better or worse in terms of suppressing virus and getting T helper cell levels up.

Some day it might be possible to figure out what kind of gene you have and decide, based on this, how much drug to take. But even without more research, one finding is startling and important for people to be aware of.

A big study of people was done who are taking Viracept. This study had people divided into two groups, one that was told the usual things to do and a second group whose level of drug in the blood was monitored. In the group that was being monitored, if someone's drug levels got too low, the doctors took steps to try to get the level up. The first and most important step that was taken was making sure the person took Viracept with food.

It turned out only 2 percent of people in the group whose drug level was monitored and steps to get it up were taken, had Viracept fail them by the end of a year. But 18 percent of people in the group not monitored had their drug fail them.

This means it is critical if you are on Viracept to have it with a meal. Studies show the absorption of Viracept is not connected to the amount of fat, but might be connected to the number of calories. Scientist feel that you need a 500-calorie meal with each dose of the drug.

It is clear from studies the amount of Viracept in the blood is two to three times higher when taken with a 500-calorie meal!

Simply put -- if you're on Viracept -- when you take this med -- EAT.

David Scondras is the founder and chairman of Search For A Cure. Scondras developed the nationally-recognized HIV treatment series, Reasons for Hope.

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!



  
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This article was provided by Search for a Cure. It is a part of the publication Reasons for Hope.
 
See Also
More on HIV Medications
More on Viracept (Nelfinavir)

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