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Roche plans to launch Aids-fighting drug

Roche's new drug could be another weapon in the fight against Aids

(Keystone Archive)

The Swiss healthcare group Roche plans to launch a new Aids treatment drug for patients who fail to respond to conventional therapy, the company's chairman said on Wednesday.

The drug, named T-20, is being developed with the United States biotech firm Trimeris Inc., and is expected to be available in 2003. Roche chairman Franz Humer said he anticipates that it will gain approval in the United States and Europe, and would later be more widely used.

"If the data is good, I would expect a rather rapid approval for such a drug," Humer said.

T-20 is the first of a new class of anti-HIV drugs called fusion inhibitors, which are designed to prevent the Aids-causing virus from penetrating the body's cells. Unlike many HIV medicines, T-20 must be injected, rather than taken as a pill.

The new drug represents a new approach in that it is designed to prevent HIV from fusing with human cells. It represents a significant stride in fighting the constantly mutating virus, according to Roche.

Phase three trials of the drug have concluded, said William Burns, head of the drug division at Roche, and he expects documents to be filed with regulators in 2002, seeking approval to market T-20.

Aids activists have demanded more access to the medicine, on an experimental treatment basis, and have complained that Roche and Trimeris have not adequately accommodated patients who do not respond to conventional therapy.

Roche and Trimeris are expected to split equally US and Canadian sales, while Roche will pay Trimeris a royalty on sales outside North America, the company said.

swissinfo with agencies

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