Monday October 29, 2001

Study: Bristol-Myers AIDS Drug Avoids Fat Problem

ATHENS (Reuters) - A new AIDS drug being developed by Bristol-Myers Squibb Co appears to avoid the fat-in-blood problems experienced by patients taking other similar medicines, a conference was told on Monday.

Atazanavir, an experimental once-a-day drug in final Phase III clinical trials, belongs to the powerful protease inhibitor class of anti-HIV treatments.

Unlike rival treatments it seems not to cause the metabolic side-effect of highly elevated blood fat levels, Giuseppe Pantaleo of the Hospital de Beaumont in Lausanne, Switzerland, told the 8th European Conference on Clinical Aspects and Treatment of HIV Infection.

``Generally, in regimens that include a protease inhibitor we see a rapid, marked and sustained increase in lipid levels. This does not happen with atazanavir, even at 48 weeks,'' he reported.

Excessive levels of fat in the blood can cause serious heart complications for AIDS patients.

Pantaleo's trial involved 467 patients and tested atazanavir against Viracept, an established protease inhibitor marketed by Pfizer Inc and Roche Holding AG .

Both drugs, when used in a cocktail with other antiretrovirals, were similarly effective in controlling the virus. But those patients on atazanavir experienced a clinically insignificant 5-6 percent increase in cholesterol levels, compared with the 25 percent for Viracept.

``With increasing frequency, physicians who treat people with HIV are confronted with patients with significant lipid disorders. Atazanavir may offer an important new treatment option,'' Pantaleo concluded.