New report shows 97 medicines and vaccines in development for HIV/AIDS

WASHINGTON, D.C. — America’s pharmaceutical research and biotechnology companies are testing 97 medicines and vaccines to treat or prevent HIV/AIDS and related conditions, according to a new report released Nov. 24 by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

Dec. 1 marked the 21st anniversary of World AIDS Day — a global awareness campaign that originated at the 1988 World Summit of Ministers of Health on Programs for AIDS Prevention.

“We are greatly encouraged by these critically important medicines and vaccines in development to treat and prevent HIV infection,” said Billy Tauzin, PhRMA’s president and CEO. “Pharmaceutical researchers are continuing their efforts to develop new therapies and vaccines to improve and lengthen the lives of HIV-infected patients.”

The report found that the 97 products in development include 23 vaccines and 54 antivirals. These drugs are either in human clinical trials or awaiting approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Thirty-one medicines to treat HIV/AIDS have been approved since scientists first identified the virus that causes AIDS more than 20 years ago. The first HIV/AIDS medicine was approved in 1987, just four years after the virus was identified.

Although the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that more than 1 million Americans were living with HIV infection at the end of 2006, the increased availability and use of newer prescription medicines has helped to reduce the U.S. death rate from AIDS substantially in recent years, according to government statistics.

Despite this progress, AIDS remains a devastating and growing health problem in developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, China, India and the Russian Federation. According to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, in 2007 an estimated 33 million people were living with HIV, 2.7 million were newly infected with HIV, and 2 million people died from the disease.

“A safe and effective HIV vaccine is critical to the control of HIV globally,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Conservatively, the PhRMA report states that an effective HIV vaccine could prevent almost 30 million of the 150 million new infections projected in the coming decades. A highly effective vaccine could even prevent more than 70 million infections in 15 years.

One of the 23 vaccines in development combines two vaccines to prevent HIV by priming and strengthening the immune system, the PhRMA report said.