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New drug enfuvirtide shows promise against drug resistant HIV infection

CHAPEL HILL -- The new drug enfuvirtide, a member of a new class of medications designed to combat HIV -- the virus that causes AIDS -- shows strong promise in treating drug-resistant cases of the life-threatening infection, a study conducted with patients in North and South America concludes.

A report on the research appears in the May 29 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

"This is one of the most important studies performed to date in HIV-infected patients who have already received highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) and a landmark study for the field of HIV," said Dr. Joseph Eron of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a report author.

"The clinical work clearly demonstrates that a completely new class of anti-HIV medication, developed by a local company, Trimeris, is highly effective in a very large randomized study," said Eron, associate professor of medicine at the UNC School of Medicine.

"Enfuvirtide, or T-20, works by blocking HIV entry into CD4 + lymphocytes or T-cells and will benefit patients who already have HIV that is resistant to current therapy."

CD4+ lymphocytes, also known as T-cells, are a key part of the body's immune system for fighting off disease-causing viruses, bacteria and various other organisms, he said. HIV is so deadly because it kills those defenders and leaves patients vulnerable to a wide variety of debilitating illnesses.

Fuzeon is enfuvirtide's trade name.

Another report of a second study with similar results carried out in Europe and Australia also appears in the May 29 issue of the journal. Eron and Dr. J. Michael Kilby of the University of Alabama at Birmingham have a third article in the journal describing T-20 and other drugs now in development in the new class of HIV medications called entry inhibitors.

Dr. Jacob P. Lalezari of Quest Clinical Research, Mount Zion Hospital and the University of California at San Francisco led
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Contact: David Williamson
919-962-8596
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
28-May-2003


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