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A One-Pill Answer to Treating H.I.V.

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

The first treatment for H.I.V. in the form of one pill taken once a day is going to market in the United States. A spokesman for the drug company Bristol-Myers Squibb says the new product, called Atripla, has already been shipped to suppliers.

Atripla is the result of some unusual cooperation among drug companies. The government approved the treatment on July twelfth. Food and Drug Administration officials had until October to make a decision. But they acted quickly.

Doctors believe a one-pill-a-day plan will be more successful than current treatments which can involve several pills a day. Patients are less likely to miss treatments. Missed treatments can help the virus gain resistance to drugs.

Atripla combines three medicines widely used to treat the most common form of H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. One of the three is Sustiva, made by Bristol-Myers. The other two are Viread and Emtriva, both from Gilead Sciences.

The new tablets are approved for use alone or with other antiretroviral products to treat adults.

Earlier this year, the New England Journal of Medicine published a study of Atripla. Gilead paid for the study. Researchers compared the effectiveness of Atripla to the widely used combination of Sustiva and Combivir, from GlaxoSmithKline.

They reported that Atripla suppressed virus levels in more patients and with fewer side effects. A one-month supply in the United States will cost more than one thousand dollars, the same price as for the separate drugs it contains.

Gilead and Bristol-Myers will jointly market Atripla. AIDS activists praised the cooperation between drug makers as historic. They also called on them to provide the treatment to developing nations.

The Bristol-Myers spokesman says his company and Gilead want to do that. They are currently negotiating with Merck. That company has rights to market the active substance in Sustiva in a number of countries outside the United States.

The spokesman says the new product could be offered as early as September through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The plan provides drugs to fifteen poor countries, mostly in Africa. The Food and Drug Administration recently approved a two-pill-a-day H.I.V. treatment for use under the emergency plan.

And that's the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Caty Weaver. Transcripts and archives of our reports are at I'm Barbara Klein.