October 2001

New 'Fusion' AIDS Drug Fights Off Resistant Virus

ATHENS (Reuters) - A revolutionary new AIDS drug, which could help thousands of people who fail to respond to conventional therapy, has produced promising results in clinical trials, researchers said on Tuesday.

T-20, being developed by Switzerland's Roche Holding AG and U.S. biotech firm Trimeris Inc, is the first of a new class of drugs called fusion inhibitors that work by preventing HIV getting into the cells it attacks.

Of 41 patients previously heavily treated with other drugs, 56 percent showed a tenfold reduction in the amount of virus in their blood, Dr. Frank Duff of Roche told the 8th European Conference on Clinical Aspects and Treatment of HIV Infection.

Patients were given T-20 via a series over under-the-skin injections over 48 weeks.

Roche and Trimeris are hoping to win rapid approval for the product, which is in the final Phase III tests, allowing for its launch in 2003.

Fighting a constantly mutating virus is one of the biggest challenges facing designers of AIDS drugs and T-20, which works by stopping the HIV virus that causes AIDS from fusing with human cells, represents a radical new approach.

Current state-of-the-art combination therapies keep the virus at bay by attacking on three fronts at once, but some patients find that eventually they no longer work as the strain of HIV in their body evolves and outwits the drugs.