23 November 2010
By Donald G Mcneil JR
New York, NY USA
Antiretroviral Pill Was Over 90 Per Cent Effective on Men Who Took it Faithfully Every Day
In the study, published Tuesday by the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that thehundredsofgaymenrandomly assigned to take the drugs were 44 per cent less likely to get infected than the equal number assigned to take a placebo.
But when only the men whose blood tests showed they had taken their pill faithfully every day were considered, the pill was more than 90 per cent effective, said Dr Anthony S. Fauci, headofthedivisionoftheNational InstitutesofHealth,whichpaidfor the study along with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
"That’s huge," Dr. Fauci said.
"That says it all for me."
The large study, nicknamed iPrEx, included nearly 2,500 men in six countries and was coordinated by the Gladstone Institutes oftheUniversityofCalifornia,San Francisco. The results are the best news in the AIDS field in years, evenbetterthanthissummer’srev elation that a vaginal microbicide protected 39 percent of all the women testing it and 54 percent of those who used it faithfully.
Also, the antiretroviral pill -Truvada, a combination of two drugs, tenofovir and emtricitabine -is available by prescription in many countries right now, while the microbicide gel is made only in small amounts for clinical trials.
The protection, known as "preexposure prophylaxis" or "PreP," is the first new form available to men, especially men who cannot use condoms because they sell sex, are in danger of prison rape, are under pressure from partners or lose their inhibitions when drunk.
It is a form of protection "that does not involve getting permission from the other partner," said PhillWilson,presidentoftheBlack AIDS Institute. Michel Sidibé, head of UNAIDS, the United Nations AIDS-fighting agency, called it "a breakthrough that will accelerate the prevention revolution."
"The results are encouraging, but it’s not time for gay men to throw away their condoms," Dr Fentonsaid. AIDSexpertsandthe researchers issued several caveats aboutthestudy’slimitations.Itwas only of gay men and only of one drug combination.