This article is over 16 years old

News

New AIDS Drug

A single combination-therapy pill for HIV/AIDS patients is now on the market. Many people infected with the disease will now be able to switch from from taking multiple pills per day to just a single dose. Houston Public Radio’s Laurie Johnson reports. When Joel Guerrero was diagnosed with AIDS back in 1986, he had to […]

Listen

To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code:

<iframe src="https://embed.hpm.io/1/3385" style="height: 115px; width: 100%;"></iframe>
X

A single combination-therapy pill for HIV/AIDS patients is now on the market. Many people infected with the disease will now be able to switch from from taking multiple pills per day to just a single dose. Houston Public Radio’s Laurie Johnson reports.

When Joel Guerrero was diagnosed with AIDS back in 1986, he had to take 20 pills every day just to stay alive. Just five years ago, he was still taking a dozen pills a day in three separate doses. Now he stays healthy with just four pills and he says it’s difficult to describe the significance of a single-dose to someone who is not infected with HIV..

“When I was taking the 20 pills, they were the size of horse pills. They were humongous pills, which really doesn’t matter to me, it doesn’t matter the size of the pills as long as it does something for your health. But now they’re getting, you know, smaller and they’re easier. I’m telling you, the way the medicine is coming out, they’re making it now — the combinations, people will be able to stay on a schedule.”

The medication, called Atripla, is a once-a-day pill produced from three different drugs. Pharmaceutical companies Bristol-Myers Squibb and Gilead collaborated to combine their own drugs into a triple-drug cocktail. Dr. Roberto Andrade is an infectious diseases physician with Baylor College of Medicine. He works with AIDS patients at the Thomas Street Health Clinic through the Harris County Hospital District. He says this collaboration between the drug companies is practically unheard of.

“We tend to see between companies, really there is so much competition that we never could imagine that this is going to happen. That two companies that compete for money between each other can get together for the patients. So this partnership that Bristol and Gilead did I think is going to be a big example for other companies to get together because the goal of this is to improve the patient care.”

The CDC estimates around 1.2 million people are living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. Of those, there are two groups that will not be eligible for this drug: pregnant mothers can’t take this regimen, nor can patients who have already built up a resistance to any of the three drugs combined in this pill. But that still leaves a lot of people who may be able to drastically simplify their medication regimen, and Andrade says a simple routine will save lives.

“When you treat HIV, we tend to say the combination that works is the combination the patient takes. So what I’m trying to say with this is that if the patient takes the medication, regardless of what combination, it’s going to be successful for their numbers — for their long life.”

Atripla is available at some pharmacies. Patients in the Harris County Hospital District and the Thomas Street Clinic will have to wait a few weeks for the medication to be approved through the local system. Laurie Johnson HPR News.

Subscribe to Today in Houston

Fill out the form below to subscribe our new daily editorial newsletter from the HPM Newsroom.

* required

Laurie Johnson-Ramirez

Laurie Johnson-Ramirez

News Director

Laurie Johnson-Ramirez leads news coverage for Houston Public Media across broadcast and digital platforms. Ramirez is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. Before becoming News Director, Ramirez held the position of Executive Producer for Daily News, leading daily and breaking news coverage, helping...

More Information