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First ever pill to beat HIV under FDA consideration

Posted on May 10, 07:40PM | IANS

London, May 10 : Truvada, the first ever pill to beat HIV -- a breakthrough in the 30-year-old war against AIDS epidemic -- is under active consideration of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval.

Currently used to treat HIV, tests have shown Truvada to be effective in protecting healthy people too. The FDA concluded a pill daily could stave off "infection with a serious and life-threatening illness that requires lifelong treatment".

A panel of FDA advisers will consider the review when it votes on whether Truvada, created by California-based Gilead Sciences, should be approved as a preventative treatment for the HIV afflicted. Gilead has marketed Truvada since 2004 as a treatment for the HIV infected.

An estimated 1.2 million Americans suffer from HIV, which unless treated with antiviral drugs, develops into Acquired Immuno deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), a condition which renders the body defenceless against infections, the Daily Mail reports.

There have been no other drugs proven to prevent HIV and a vaccine is believed to be decades away. Truvada is a combination of two older HIV drugs, Emtriva and Viread.

Doctors usually prescribe the medication as part of a drug cocktail that makes it harder for the virus to reproduce. Patients with low viral levels have reduced symptoms and are far less likely to develop AIDS.

Researchers first reported that Truvada could prevent people from contracting HIV in 2010. A three-year study found that daily doses cut the risk of infection in healthy gay and bisexual men by 44 percent, when accompanied by condoms and counselling.

A separate study found that Truvada reduced infection by 75 percent in heterosexual couples in which one partner was infected with HIV and the other was not.

Since Truvada is already in the market to manage HIV, some doctors already prescribe it as a preventive measure. But an approval from the FDA would allow Gilead Sciences to formally market the drug for that use.

"If we're going to reduce the more than 50,000 new HIV infections in this country each year, we need to increase the available options for people," AIDS United's vice-president Ronald Johnson said.