September 30, 2002
Recent research presented at a weekend session of the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in San Diego shows that Fuzeon, thought to be most effective for patients running out of treatment alternatives, works even better for those with lesser degrees of resistance. Drawing from 491 patients divided into four groups of varying levels of response to standard AIDS drugs, researchers from Trimeris Inc. and Hoffmann-La Roche Inc. reported that HIV levels declined in all four groups, which were followed for 24 weeks. The greatest benefit came to patients with lesser degrees of resistance who got their standard cocktail plus Fuzeon. Some saw their virus levels plunge.
Fuzeon's makers, however, continued to sidestep the touchy question of price. Analysts have speculated that Fuzeon -- which takes 106 chemical steps to produce -- may cost as much as $12,000 to $15,000 a year. The companies this month applied to the FDA for permission to market the drug, formerly known as T-20. Roche and Trimeris also plan to bring out a "son of Fuzeon," known as T-1249, "designed to have more potency, a longer half-life in the blood, and more activity against different kinds of HIV, so that it can block viruses that become resistant to Fuzeon," said Trimeris CEO Dan Bolognesi.
Both drugs are given as injections. While Fuzeon's main side effect is skin irritation, three serious reactions arose during T-1249 treatment: fever, an allergy-like hypersensitivity, and neutropenia, or a drop in white blood cells.
Wall Street Journal
09.30.02; Marilyn Chase