HIV prevention?
July 8, 2005 1:53 PM   Subscribe

New drug blocks HIV from entering cells and causes "almost" no side effects, reports Asahi Shinbun.
posted by taursir (21 comments total)
No Japanese were hurt by the testing of this new drug.

(Just found it funny that the article specified it was tested on Americans)
posted by titboy at 2:08 PM on July 8, 2005

I worry about things like "almost no side effects" and then they don't discuss it any further. Not minimal side effects, just that there aren't very many of them but if one of them happens to make you allergic to oxygen or something then its significant.

But this appears to be some really good news in the war on HIV/AIDS. Why is it coming from a beer manufacturer though?
posted by fenriq at 2:15 PM on July 8, 2005

The newspaper is Asahi Shimbun, one of the largest newspapers in circulation in Japan. Its parent company is the Asahi Corporation, which also owns the Asahi breweries.
posted by junesix at 2:21 PM on July 8, 2005

I was confused by the article, do you think this is a vaccine, to prevent an HIV negative person from contracting HIV, or is it more along the lines of a cure to render HIV harmless in the body of one who already has the disease?
posted by jonson at 2:25 PM on July 8, 2005

on the beer derail, here's a fun fact - some molecular biology gear is made by Coors. Brewers use yeast to do their magic, molecular biologists use yeast, bacteria, etc., so it kinda makes sense.

I'm happy to hear about the existence of this drug.
posted by selfmedicating at 2:29 PM on July 8, 2005

A lot of Japanese beer companies own the rights to vast. VAST libraries of small molecules (for one reason or another).

Systematically throwing these small molecules at various targets and seeing what the response is, is just something they do.

Did I mention that these libaries are really fricken huge?
posted by PurplePorpoise at 2:38 PM on July 8, 2005

it's not a vaccine, because it doesn't prevent your blood/body from getting it. The hiv stays in you but doesn't invade, i think. It may be a therapeutic vaccine of some kind, but not for the rest of us.

This is good news--i hope it pans out for everyone.
posted by amberglow at 2:39 PM on July 8, 2005

junesix, I had guessed something along those lines at about the moment I'd clicked Submit. Just like Kawasaki Heavy Industries does a whole bunch of other stuff aside from making crotch rockets.

jonson, details on the drug were pretty sketchy. It would be incredibly amazingly cool if this new drug cured people with AIDS but I think they would have mentioned it if that were the case.
posted by fenriq at 2:39 PM on July 8, 2005

This is not a vaccine. It's a CCR5 coreceptor inhibitor which means it deactivates a receptor on immune (white blood) cells. The coreceptor is a component in the process by which HIV viral fuses with and enters the cell. When used in an HIV-infected patient, it will suppress the viral load.

Any news about successful trials of antiretroviral (ARV) agents is A Good Thing, but too be frank, this is a small study of 40 patients in Phase II so it's a bit premature to get overly excited. Thankfully a number of big and small pharmas are developing other CCR5 inhibitors as well - Pfizer, GSK, Schering.

A nice diagram of the fusion process is available here.

Disclosure: I have consulted for AnorMED in the past.
posted by junesix at 2:40 PM on July 8, 2005

Hopefully one of the side effects is rampant unsheathed intercourse.

"W00T" - humanity
posted by Pretty_Generic at 2:42 PM on July 8, 2005

What junesiz said. Also, HIV is (at least the last time I was involved in the field) considered a "metapopulation", which in effect means it's astoundingly adaptive. So something which works by blocking a specific step in the attachment process, unless it's *really* fundamental to the process, may just get routed around in amazingly short order.

Having said all that, this is certainly pretty exciting news and I absolutely hope it turns out to be significant.
posted by freebird at 3:02 PM on July 8, 2005

From my favorite comedian Bill Hicks:
I got a theory - the day they come out with a cure for AIDS. Guaranteed, one-shot cure. On that day, there's gonna be fucking in the streets, man. It's over! Who're you? C'mere! What's your name, baby? No, it's over, yeah, woo-hoo! Man, if you can't get laid on that day, cut it off.
posted by daHIFI at 3:10 PM on July 8, 2005

Why is this news, let alone Newsfilter worthy news?

It's 98-99% pure hype.
posted by shoos at 3:13 PM on July 8, 2005


You know all the bacterial diseases got whiped out by antibiotics. The stuff that's left is, aperantly, a real bitch.
Anyway, it seems to me that what this drug does is prevent HIV from spreading once it's inside the body. I suppose that if you took enough you'd eventualy be cured as the virus loaded cells would eventualy die out.

Imagine if you could take this and combine it with a drug that searched out cells that were infected with HIV, the two together might present a kind of "cure".
posted by delmoi at 3:14 PM on July 8, 2005

I'm not sure about this report. The link to the NIH data, from the same lab but labelled Feb 2003, indicates that although the compound shows promise there is concern that it could lead to other kinds of immune disfunction because of what CCR5 does in the body. The article is too sketchy to address those issues, although perhaps that's what's meant by the "no side effects" line. The other thing is that we know nothing from the article about how the compound is administered. The newest class of HIV drugs, in which there is only one drug right now (F20,or Fuzeon), are called Fusion Inhibitors. Right now F20 costs something like 20k a year, the drug must me injected on the abdomen, and the injection sites remain red and irritated for several days afterward. The drug is, in other words, good but of limited use right now.

delmoi writes "Anyway, it seems to me that what this drug does is prevent HIV from spreading once it's inside the body. I suppose that if you took enough you'd eventualy be cured as the virus loaded cells would eventualy die out."

Current drugs actually do a great job of killing HIV, people on the drugs have virtually undetectable levels of virus in the body, but because of the way our own immune systems archive the virus viral suppression is never going to lead to completely eradicating it from the body.
posted by OmieWise at 3:36 PM on July 8, 2005

(Just found it funny that the article specified it was tested on Americans)

It's actually easier to organize clinical drug trials in the US than in Japan. Cost controls in Japan keep treatment prices low, so there is little incentive for patients there to volunteer for free drug trials.
posted by SPrintF at 6:08 PM on July 8, 2005

The amount of ignorance on this board regarding actual medical research makes this attempt at correction mere pissing in the wind. But, CCR5 receptor blockers are in all phases of clinical trials across multiple pharmaceutical companies. The blurb cited in the starter post is probably just publicity for yet another molecule, and company, chasing development funds.

Honestly, I don't see why pharmaceutical companies pursue HIV therapy. When expensive remedies are invented for impoverished classes, the mob generally lynches the goose and confiscates the golden egg, all the while denigrating the motives of the goose.
posted by paleocon at 6:17 PM on July 8, 2005

paleocon -- since when did AIDS not affect people in the first world with money and/or health insurance?
posted by dagnyscott at 9:50 AM on July 9, 2005

paleocon, i'd say it's because there's more money in stuff that maintains their customers for decades than in a one-shot cure or vaccine. Should they stop altogether? Wouldn't that be even more evil than their recent lines of research now (aimed at maintenance)?
posted by amberglow at 10:12 AM on July 9, 2005

(I'm a physician.) There are already more than 20 antiretroviral drugs on the market; I don't expect one or a few more to make a huge impact. As OmieWise pointed out, chemical agents are never going to be a cure for AIDS. They have instead turned it into a chronic disease.

Such therapy is an example of what Lewis Thomas referred to as "halfway technology" in medicine. Such measures usually have unintended consequences. For example, turning AIDS from a disease that kills in a few years to one that is carried for 20 years or more, gives the virus much more opportunity to spread, so that its prevalence can be expected to rise steadily, as it is doing. Also, the virus has more opportunity to mutate into new forms.

Just a few days ago I priced the most commonly used anti-HIV 3-drug regimen--it came in at $1016 per month.
posted by neuron at 1:39 PM on July 9, 2005

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