Two new medicines to fight drug-resistant HIV

People with drug-resistant strains of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) now have two new medicines available to combat the disease.

Pharmaceutical management agency Pharmac will fund Janssen New Zealand anti-HIV medications Intelence (etravirine) and Prezista (darunavir) from 1 November.

These two new drugs are additions to the range of Government-funded HIV treatments which can be used to treat the disease if resistance develops to other anti-viral drugs.

Intelence is a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) that works for patients with infections due to an HIV strain that is resistant to the other NNRTIs. Intelence is the first new NNRTI to be introduced in over 10 years. Prezista is a new protease inhibitor with a high genetic barrier to resistance – in other words a number of mutations in the virus are needed before resistance to this drug can develop.

Dr Mark Thomas, an Infectious Disease Consultant at Auckland City Hospital, says NNRTIs have been trusted by physicians and used in antiretroviral therapy for more than a decade, but the evolution of NNRTI-resistance has limited the use of this important class of HIV medications for some patients.

“Intelence extends the NNRTI class to patients who have NNRTI-resistant virus, with the potential to suppress their virus to undetectable levels – a major treatment goal,” he said.

“Pharmac’s funding approval offers new options for people with HIV infection. In two randomised trials involving nearly 1,300 patients, patients taking Prezista were less likely to experience virological failure – and have their HIV virus multiply despite treatment – than patients taking another protease inhibitor.”

Mr Bruce Kilmister from HIV patient advocacy group Body Positive said, “This is really good news for New Zealanders who are suffering debilitating toxicities from their older treatment regimens. Treatments including Intelence and Prezista are generally well tolerated resulting in durable suppression of HIV and improved health.”

Mr Kilmister thanked Janssen New Zealand for making these medicines freely available to New Zealand patients who needed them for over two years while the Pharmac funding application was in process.

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