Emory University researchers have found that a member of a new class of antiretroviral drugs is safe and effective for patients beginning treatment against HIV.
They came to this conclusion after analysing the results of a two-year multisite phase III clinical trial, and comparing this drug with standard antiretroviral drugs.
"These results provide an additional potent, well tolerated treatment option for newly diagnosed patients with HIV infection," says lead author Dr. Jeffrey Lennox professor of medicine (infectious diseases) at Emory University School of Medicine.
A research article published in the journal The Lancet reveals that the scientists found that an HIV integrase inhibitor called Raltegravir is overall as effective as widely used efavirenz, a reverse transcriptase inhibitor.
The researchers also observed that Raltegravir had faster onset of action and fewer adverse side effects.
During the clinical trial, the researchers combined both with two other standard retroviral drugs, tenofovir and emtricitabine.
According to the report, 566 patients from 67 medical centers on five continents were involved in the trial.
The "primary endpoint" of the trial was pushing viral levels below 50 copies per ml of blood by week 48.
The research hers said that 86 percent of the participants in the raltegravir group reached that goal, compared with 82 percent of the efavirenz group.
They further said that half the raltegravir group reached the endpoint by week four, compared with less than 20 percent for the efavirenz group.
The researchers also found the raltegravir group to encounter fewer side effects, such as headache, dizziness, and elevation in levels of cholesterol.
The authors note that raltegravir is usually taken twice a day, which may be more difficult for some patients.
However, they add, raltegravir's reduction in side effects and concerns about the ability of efavirenz to cause birth defects may be advantages for raltegravir.