Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Plague of Our Times

This could possibly be the most important set of clinical trials in the last 50 years.

Here's an accompanying article from The Vancouver Sun:

Canadian researchers working on a vaccine to prevent HIV announced Tuesday they have received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to begin clinical trials on humans in January.

A team led by Dr. Chil-Yong Kang, a virologist at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont., plans to start Phase 1 of clinical trials on 40 HIV-positive patients to test the safety of the vaccine.

"FDA approval for human clinical trials is an extremely significant milestone for our vaccine, which has the potential to save the lives of millions of people around the world by preventing HIV infection," Kang said in a news release.

It could be about five years before the vaccine goes on the market, Kang told Postmedia News.

The SAV001 vaccine, administered as an injection, has already gone through preliminary toxicology tests on animals. It didn't show any adverse effects or safety concerns and can be produced in large quantities, Kang said.

For more, please have a look here.

I have two initial responses to this news. The first is obvious; I truly hope this trial sees nothing but success. The untold number lives that could be saved with this vaccine is a wondrous prospect. I wish Dr. Kang and his team the best of luck with their work. I'm unconditionally on their side.

The other is fear. A few years ago, I was in a fantastic new play called Cocktail. It followed the story of Thai pharmaceutical specialist Dr. Krisana Kraisintu and her attempts to develop an inexpensive AIDS treatment for the people of Thailand. One section of the play specifically commented on the extreme pressure Dr. Kraisintu received from American pharmaceutical companies that saw her efforts as a threat to their financial health.

And that's exactly what I see happening with Dr. Kang.

Consider this. Bristol-Myers Squibb has been one of the leading developers of HIV/AIDS treatment medications. In 2009, BMS made a net income of $10.6 billion. One of their several AIDS medications, Reyataz, cost $890 per month. For that kind of money, I could rent a fairly decent one-bedroom apartment not too far from Center City Philadelphia.

I hope Dr. Kang takes the appropriate measures to protect himself and his work. These big pharmaceutical aren't going to let take this threat to their income lying down.


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