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September 1998

United Against AIDS International (UAAI)

This committed group of humanitarians is attempting to provide the latest HIV/AIDS medications to developing countries. Without a modern health care system and the money to pay for expensive medications citizens infected with HIV/AIDS can't treat their illness. UAAI provides programs which raise the level of education and awareness in these countries. Through carefully monitored and professionally dispensed donations of medicine and medical supplies, which you or a loved one no longer need, you can help UAAI help others. Everything is needed, from antivirals to sterile gloves and bedpans -- not to mention condoms.

If you can help with medicines, supplies, equipment or money we urge you to call Hugh Ward, Executive Director, UAAI (718) 639-5696. You can also drop any of the aforementioned items off at the PWA Health Group, 150 W. 26th St., Ste. 201 or call (212) 255-0520.

PWAHG Volunteers Needed

Are you concerned about people with HIV/AIDS? Would you like to contribute more than $$$ to AIDS? Do you have 4 free hours per week? If you answered yes to any of these questions you sound like the kind of person we're looking for. Call Mark at (212) 255-0520 and sign up for our ongoing volunteer training programs, including free treatment education training!!

Warning! Norvir (Ritonavir) Problems with Capsule Manufacturing

Abbott has acknowledged a problem with the manufacture of its capsule formulation of Norvir. They have discovered an unexpected crystallization in the capsules which will affect how the drug dissolves. They have reassured us that this problem is new and does not affect the supplies already on pharmacy shelves. The bad news is that until this problem is resolved, everyone will be shifted to the liquid (elixir) formulation. The other bad news is that it tastes bad, really bad.

More bad news is that it must be kept unrefrigerated at temps of 68-77 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius). The baddest news -- the liquid formulation is 40% alcohol, a problem if you're in recovery. Abbott does not know when the problem will be resolved, but assures us that there is plenty of liquid to go around. There's a Hotline set up to help with questions you have as well as a web site with relevant information.

The dosing of the liquid formulation is as follows:
600 mg = 3D 1 1/2 teaspoons; 400 mg = 3D 1 teaspoon

The Hotline hours are 7am - 7pm @ 800/637-2400
The web site is

New Trial Starting

The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) is starting a small trial to test a new kind of HIV vaccine in combination with standard antiviral therapy, to try to bring back HIV-specific immune responses in volunteers with relatively early HIV disease.

This trial is open to persons who currently have a T-cell count of over 500, and who either are on antiretroviral treatment already, or are willing to start. Volunteers must never have had a T-cell count under 300, unless the low count occurred during acute HIV infection. All medications will be paid for and the trial lasts 18 months.

Interest is growing rapidly for ways to restore HIV-specific immune responses. This trial will add information to the growing file of data at the NIH on immune restoration.

For more information about volunteering for this study, contact Tino Merced-Galindez, RN 800/772-5464 ext.562 or 301/496-8959, or, or Richard Little, MD 800/772-5464 ext.657, or at the HIV and AIDS Malignancy Branch, National Cancer Institute.

Potential Interactions Between Cholesterol Lowering Drugs and Protease Inhibitors

It has been reported that some people on highly active antiretroviral combination therapy which include protease inhibitors are experiencing increases in their cholesterol levels. High cholesterol levels are associated with heart disease. Therefore, some doctors are treating increased cholesterol with cholesterol-lowering drugs. The most commonly prescribed and most effective drugs available to lower cholesterol levels are the "statins." There is little or no information about the interaction of these drugs with protease inhibitors, but both are processed by an important group of liver enzymes, CYP3A.

Although there's little or no information on using statins with protease inhibitors, the FDA has examined the differences in how these cholesterol-lowering drugs are processed in the body. Lovastatin (Mevacor) and simvastatin (Zocor) are very dependent on CYP3A. There is a greater chance of drug interactions if Mevacor or Zocor are used with protease inhibitors.

Atorvastatin (Lipitor) and cerivastatin (Baycol) are less dependent on CYP3A but there still is a chance of a drug interaction if either is used with a protease inhibitor. Fluvastatin (Lescol) and pravastatin (Pravachol) are not dependent on CYP3A and are probably safe when used with protease inhibitors. In June, the FDA amended Pravachol's label to address this drug's reduced potential to interact with CYP3A, decreasing the likelihood of drug interactions.

The risk of using the CYP3A-dependent statins, particularly Mevacor and Zocor, with protease inhibitors is that levels of the cholesterol-lowering drugs will increase in your body. This can cause a rare muscle condition called rhabdomyolysis, destroying skeletal muscles in your legs, butt and arms.

So for now, until there are further data, if you and your doctor believe it is necessary to treat high cholesterol levels with statins while on protease inhibitors, Pravachol and Lescol are the safest bets. By the way, Pravachol lowers cholesterol more than Lescol.

Back to the September 1998 contents page.

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This article was provided by PWA Health Group. It is a part of the publication Notes From the Underground.