Last year will long be remembered for its remarkable advances in the diagnosis and prevention of HIV; OraSure Technologies gained FDA approval for the first-ever at-home, over-the-counter, and needle-free HIV test, while Gilead Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ: GILD)‘s drug Truvada, a therapeutic initially prescribed only for HIV-positive patients, was approved as a prophylactic medication for at-risk individuals.
But now, just months into 2013, a landmark discovery in the treatment — rather than prevention — of HIV has been announced.
Public health phenomenon
Late Sunday evening, a number of media outlets reported that a child who had been infected with HIV at birth in 2010 had been cured following a course of treatment that lasted only a year and a half. According to the physicians involved in the infant’s care, a mixture of three drugs — commonly referred to as a “cocktail” — was administered to the infant just 30 hours after birth.
There have been varying reports as to the exact combination that was used, but an article published by Bloomberg stated that two drugs made by a Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) and GlaxoSmithKline plc (ADR) (NYSE:GSK) joint venture — lamivudine and zidovudine — along with AbbVie Inc (NYSE:ABBV)‘s Kaletra formed the treatment.The newborn was kept on the drugs for only 18 months and, for reasons that are still unclear, was not treated for the next 10 months. Miraculously, after relocating the child, doctors could not find any evidence that the patient was still infected with the disease.
The limited data available today suggests that it was the swift intervention of the doctors involved in this infant’s care that made the difference; administering this drug cocktail as soon after birth as possible, rather than days or weeks afterwards, could be the key to curing HIV-positive newborns.