Sunday, September 9, 2012

First Drug Approved for HIV Prevention

For the first time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a drug specifically for the prevention of sexually-acquired HIV infection. The drug, called Truvada, is currently being used in combination with other drugs in the treatment of existing HIV infections.

Not everyone is happy about the FDA’s decision. The main concern is that using the drug in a large number of uninfected individuals could increase the risk of the HIV virus becoming resistant to the drug. To reduce that possibility, the FDA is asking health professionals to prescribe the drug only to high at-risk individuals (such as partners of HIV-infected persons) who have been tested for HIV and are currently negative. In addition, individuals who are taking the drug should be retested every three months to ensure that they remain negative, because Truvada alone is not recommended for HIV-infected individuals. But retesting for HIV status every three months is asking a lot in terms of compliance by health professionals and patients.

Health officials will be watching closely for any signs of the development of resistance of the HIV virus to Truvada. Whether or not patients on Truvada actually comply with the HIV re-testing recommendation will be of interest, too.

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