Monday, March 14, 2011

Gilead’s High Bar for AIDS Drugs Means New Development Withers

via Bloomberg, by Michelle Fay Cortez

Gilead Sciences Inc., the world’s biggest AIDS-drug maker, revolutionized treatment and helped forge a $15 billion market with a single daily pill attacking the virus with three medicines at once.

Now, Foster City, California-based Gilead and rivals Merck & Co. and Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. are victims of that success. Three decades after the discovery of the virus that causes AIDS, there are 31 drugs on the market that have helped turn HIV from a death sentence into a manageable disease in the developed world. Only six were approved after 2004.

“The bar for bringing on a drug in HIV has gotten higher,” said George Hanna, vice president of virology for U.S. medical and HIV early development at Bristol-Myers, based in New York. “You can no longer bring to market a drug you’re going to have to take three times a day. All of a sudden, we’re seeing a lot less in the pipeline.”

Medicines created over the years have become safer, more effective, have attacked the virus in new ways and have eliminated the need for as many as 20 pills a day. As drugmakers struggle to top that achievement, millions of HIV patients face the possibility of the virus becoming fatal again if it shifts shape inside cells to outsmart existing therapies.

HIV has been a formidable foe for drug designers, mutating around chemical hurdles placed in its way. The attack begins when the virus attaches to a cell surface receptor and uses a protein to force its way inside. Most existing families of drugs stop HIV from hijacking proteins to enter cells or block its ability to copy itself once inside.

Read the rest.

[If an item is not written by an IRMA member, it should not be construed that IRMA has taken a position on the article's content, whether in support or in opposition.]

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