Roche AIDS drug shows benefits when combined


AIDS newsZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss drugmaker Roche AG said on Thursday that up to 95 percent of patients treated with its drug Fuzeon in combination with another new kind of AIDS drug can achieve undetectable levels of HIV.

That compared with 60 to 70 percent of patients who achieved undetectable HIV after taking Merck & Co. Inc.'s experimental drug MK-0518 without Fuzeon, Roche said. The Merck drug is a so-called integrase inhibitor designed to block the reproduction of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Fuzeon, developed by Roche in partnership with Trimeris Inc. , is known as a fusion inhibitor, the first one to be approved in the United States. It works by stopping HIV from entering healthy immune cells.

Data came from a 24-week, Phase II study of MK-0518 in patients who have already been on treatment.

"Such response rates have never been achieved in clinical trials of HIV patients living with drug-resistant virus," Roche said in a statement.

Merck said in August that MK-0518 worked as well as older drugs to suppress the AIDS virus when combined with Gilead Sciences Inc.'s tenofovir, known commercially as Viread, and GlaxoSmithKline Plc's lamivudine, or Epivir.

The Merck drug is not yet commercially available.

While many HIV therapies are now available, AIDS specialists and activists have said resistance to them is becoming a problem because the virus can mutate and current drugs can become ineffective.