AIDS Patients, Doctors in Rochester Contribute to Latest Finding

August 14, 2006

Adding a fourth drug to the current treatment that many patients recently diagnosed with HIV receive doesn’t improve their health, scientists announced at the International AIDS Conference this weekend in Toronto.

A team of doctors and nurses at the University of Rochester Medical Center led by Richard Reichman, M.D., professor of Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology, and chief of the Infectious Diseases Division, took part in the nationwide study that included 765 HIV patients around the nation, including 54 in Rochester.

The study, done by the national AIDS Clinical Trials Group, showed that the extra drug, abacavir, does not improve patients’ symptoms, boost their immune systems, or reduce the level of the virus found in the blood. The results will be published in the Aug. 16 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Treatment options for people infected with the HIV virus have mushroomed since AIDS was first recognized as a disease 25 years ago. Since the first drug to treat the disease was approved 20 years ago, more than 20 drugs have become available to treat the disease. Nevertheless, doctors and nurses are constantly looking to improve treatment, especially since the disease has claimed more than 25 million lives worldwide, and to prevent the disease altogether.

“The success thus far in the treatment of HIV shows the power of modern medical research,” said Reichman, who directs the University’s AIDS Center, where more than 900 patients seek treatment.

“We are now chronically managing a disease that was once 100-percent fatal,” added Reichman. “Several whole new classes of drugs to treat the disease have been developed. Just a few years ago, a patient was faced with the prospect of taking maybe 30 pills, scattered throughout the day; now it’s possible to take as few as three pills or even just one pill once a day. While it’s almost unbelievable progress, there’s a great deal more to be done. Every minute, more people are infected, and while the best treatment available today works well, most people around the world do not have access to today’s best therapies. And for everyone infected, it’s a life-long struggle to stay healthy.”

The University’s AIDS Center, established 20 years ago as one of the nation’s original centers studying the virus, includes major efforts at research, prevention, and treatment of the disease. The center’s researchers are part of the nationwide AIDS Clinical Trials Group, the nation’s foremost group of AIDS experts working together to understand and treat the disease, which is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. The University is also home to one of the nation’s original vaccine testing centers. Since 1988 more than 800 people in Rochester have participated in studies of possible AIDS vaccines, giving Rochester one of the highest rates of participation of any community in the world.

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