- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Researchers are working to add another tool in the prevention of HIV transmission for women, completing a phase 2 trial for an alternative pre-exposure prophylaxis drug for women at high risk for contracting the incurable virus.

Women make up about 19 percent of the nearly 40,000 new HIV cases each year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Black women are disproportionately at risk for contracting the disease. Among all women diagnosed with HIV in the U.S., 61% are African-American, compared to 19% of white women and 15% Hispanic/Latina, according to the CDC.

The joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS estimates that nearly 2 million new HIV infections will occur in women each year.

Researchers from Weill Cornell Medicine evaluated the safety and tolerability of Marviroc (MVC), a drug approved for treatment of HIV, although not currently used as a preventive measure.

Their study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on Monday.

Pre-Exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) drugs are taken by individuals who have a very high risk of contracting HIV and are meant to prevent the spread of the disease.

Current PrEP drugs include a regimen of tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) and emtricitabine (FTC) but the researchers note its efficacy in women is less than in men. Negative side effects also include gastro-intestinal problems and incontinence.

“We designed and conducted this study to identify alternative regimens for HIV PrEP recognizing that there are potential issues with the approved HIV PrEP drugs (tenofovir disoproxil fumarate and emtricitabine), including toxicity and drug resistance,” Dr. Roy Gulick, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Weill Cornell Medicine, wrote in an email to the Washington Times.

“Our study used maraviroc, an oral drug approved for HIV treatment with a different side effect profile and different propensity for drug resistance,” he continued.

The researchers evaluated 188 uninfected women at risk for HIV in a double-blind study to evaluate how the women tolerated the MVC regimen. They concluded the drug was safe and well-tolerated, although additional research is needed to continue to gage its efficacy in curbing HIV transmission rates among women.

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