Monday, February 27, 1995
The rational alternative for AIDS
By Steve Usdin
WASHINGTON — The race to develop HIV protease
inhibitors is shaping up as a demonstration of the promise of rational drug
design. Agouron Pharmaceuticals Inc. and Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. are emerging
with products that could counter the immense manufacturing problems confronting
pharmaceutical companies who will be first to market with the drugs.
Both biotech companies say their anti-AIDS protease inhibitors are simpler to
manufacture and require lower doses than those under development by Merck, Roche
The relative ease of manufacturing and resulting lower costs, combined with
competitive efficacies, could help AGPH and VRTX penetrate the market after
the early protease inhibitors demonstrate the drug class’s benefits.
At last week’s meeting of the National AIDS Drug Development Task Force, Merck
reported Phase II data for its MK-639 protease inhibitor, showing reductions
in viral RNA and increased CD4 counts (see CLINICAL RESULTS, page B6).
But discussion of progress of MK-639, Roche’s Invirase, and Abbott’s ABT-538
was dominated by the impact of manufacturing challenges on protease inhibitor