Innovative Medicines Help Turn HIV Infection into Chronic Disease
Two New Reports Show Remarkable Progress in Treatment Options for HIV/AIDS
While HIV/AIDS remains one of the most devastating diseases affecting people around the world, overall global growth of the disease has stabilized and there are fewer AIDS-related deaths, due in large part to the increased availability of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART or ART). Since the introduction of HAART combinations in the mid-1990s, AIDS-related death rates in the United States have dropped 79 percent.
“Incredible strides have been made in the battle against HIV/AIDS, but the disease still poses a global threat and the collaborative path to further solutions for patients will be complex,” said PhRMA President and CEO John J. Castellani. “The nearly 75 medicines in development offer great hope for better treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS in the years ahead.”
A second report examines how continued progress against HIV/AIDS has been achieved over time. The PhRMA-sponsored white paper by Boston Healthcare Associates, Inc. (BHA), Recognizing the Value of Innovation in HIV/AIDS Therapy, looks at the evolution of HIV/AIDS treatment from the 1980s, when the disease was an acute, fatal disease, to its status today as a chronic, manageable condition.
According to the BHA report, this remarkable progress in treating HIV has been realized through a complex series of drug discoveries combined with incremental gains in clinical knowledge and confirmation of effective treatment strategies that have unfolded, and built on each other, over a number of years. According to BHA’s Thomas Goss, PharmD, the lead author of the paper, “FDA approval really is the starting point in the process to fully understand how to incorporate a new medicine into everyday clinical practice through ongoing research and real-world application and validation.”
In addition to contributing to declining death rates, HAART has contributed to an increase in survival rates among people living with HIV and reduced hospitalizations. The number of people living with HIV increased by 28 percent between 1996 and 2000, primarily because of rising survival rates. Hospitalization rates fell by 32 percent over the same period.
“In order to foster continued innovation, it will be important to support policies that reflect the incremental nature of progress and the way value emerges over time,” said Castellani.
According to the PhRMA report on the HIV/AIDS pipeline, the medicines in development – all in either clinical trials or under review by the FDA – include 40 antivirals, 25 vaccines, four cell or gene therapies, and four immunomodulators. Examples of potential innovations in the report include:
• An antisense gene therapy that uses genetic material derived from HIV-1 itself to remove disease-causing aspects of the virus.
• A transdermal vaccine comprised of DNA plasmids that helps suppress virus replication and destroys HIV-infected cells.
• A first-in-class medicine that is intended to prevent the HIV virus from attaching to new cells and breaking through the cell membrane.
“Together, these two new reports highlight how far we have come in the fight against HIV/AIDS over the last few decades,” said Castellani. “Through a series of complex steps and incremental gains in knowledge, therapeutic options for patients with HIV/AIDS are transforming the treatment paradigm and prolonging lives. America’s biopharmaceutical researchers are focusing on developing improved treatment regimens, more effective treatments, and are intensifying their efforts to develop preventative vaccines.”
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) represents the country’s leading innovative biopharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies, which are devoted to discovering and developing medicines that enable patients to live longer, healthier, and more productive lives. Since 2000, PhRMA member companies have invested over $500 billion in the search for new treatments and cures, including an estimated $49.5 billion in 2011 alone.
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