Researchers Testing Whether AIDS Drug Regimens Can Be Taken Only Five Days a Week to Cut Costs, Reduce Side Effects
October 18, 2005
Researchers in Boston and Uganda are exploring the implications of allowing HIV-positive patients to take a break from their medications every weekend, a strategy that could reduce the cost of treating the disease and improve the quality of life for patients, the Boston Globe reports. Antiretroviral drugs in the U.S. cost about $10,000 to $30,000 per person annually, and side effects of the medications can include fatigue and nausea in the short term, and heart disease, cancer and diabetes in the long term, according to the Globe. If the studies prove successful, intermittent therapy could save nearly 30% of the cost of treating one HIV-positive person. In a 48-week Boston pilot study, scientists from the Community Research Initiative of New England divided patients into three groups, with each group following a different drug regimen. Tests showed that for 23 of the 26 patients who took their drugs five days a week, the virus remained suppressed and the patients reported they felt better. The three patients who experienced a rebound in their viral levels resumed their daily regimens and their levels again were suppressed. The Uganda study includes 157 patients who will be monitored for 18 months. Deputy U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Mark Dybul, who is overseeing the Uganda study, said about 90 patients already had completed the trial after being on a regimen similar to that used in the Boston study for about 18 months and that researchers are "very encouraged" by the results. The U.S. government is supporting the Uganda study, and the Boston study was supported using government and foundation funds, the Globe reports.
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