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New HIV Drug Promises to Be Cheaper, With Less Side Effects

More than 1.1 million people in the United States are currently living with HIV infection, and almost one in six HIV-positive individuals are unaware of their disease, according to Aids.gov. In 2013, the world registered 2.3 million new HIV infections which reflects a 33 percent decline from 2001 levels, said The Global Fund. There is a clear decline in the number of HIV-AIDS incidences in the world, and this could be attributed to key interventions such as behavior change, information and communication campaigns, use of condoms, prevention of mother-to-child transmission, and other preventive measures. The campaign to lower spread of infection as part of the United Nations' Millenium Development Goals has also helped in mitigating the disease.

But also efforts and innovations from pharmaceutical companies worldwide have helped a lot in controlling HIV-related deaths through medications. Gilead Sciences, for example, has been continuously working on HIV treatments, and the Foster City-based company announced recently that it is seeking review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its new daily HIV drug that "will offer the same therapeutic benefit as existing drugs but at lower doses and with fewer side effects," reports said. The new drug, TAF, is a different formulation of the active ingredient in the existing drug Viread.

In May, Gilead's Truvada was endorsed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for use as an HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis, a once-a-day pill that could prevent HIV infection in individuals at high risk.

Among Gilead's other HIV-drugs are Stribild, a daily pill that treats HIV Type 1 in adults who are beginning treatment and has become the leading HIV therapy and the second most-prescribed regimen among all HIV patients, behind Atripla, another Gilead drug.  

In clinical trials, replacing Viread with TAF in a Stribild regimen performed as well as Stribild with lower risk of kidney damage. TAF also fights the virus at a dose 10 times lower than its predecessor in Viread, according to SFGate.

If TAF is approved, it means that HIV patients can take Stribild for longer periods because the onset of side effects will be delayed.  "Gilead remains focused on advancing next-generation therapies that have the potential to improve HIV treatment over the long term, and TAF will be the cornerstone of future Gilead single-tablet regimens," said Norbert Bischofberger, Gilead's executive vice president of research and development and chief scientific officer in a statement.

Gilead said it also plans to seek approval for TAF in the European Union by the end of the year.

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