Glaxo/Pfizer venture touts blockbuster potential of HIV drug

ViiV Healthcare, a joint venture of GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer, is touting potentially blockbuster comparative data for its experimental HIV drug dolutegravir. Researchers said that the treatment eliminated signs of the virus in 90% of the patients taking the drug after 48 weeks, according to a report in Bloomberg. That's distinctly better than the 82% rate tracked for Bristol-Myers Squibb's Sustiva, a component of the Atripla cocktail which earned $1.4 billion last year. And dolutegravir was able to tackle the lethal virus with a far lower average spike in bad cholesterol, a common side effect of Sustiva.

Michael Saag, director of the Center for AIDS Research at the University of Alabama, told Bloomberg that the data raise "the possibility of one day replacing efavirenz as the most preferred agent." BMS spokesperson Cristi Barnett, however, was quick to highlight Sustiva's long track record. "While it would be premature for me to speculate on any future treatment guideline changes, Sustiva, as part of combination HIV therapy, has accumulated extensive clinical trial data and clinical experience for more than 12 years."

The data on dolutegravir--or S/GSK1349572--also indicates that it works faster than Sustiva. After 16 weeks of treatment 92% of the patients taking the experimental drug had undetectable levels of HIV, compared to 58% of patients taking a 600-mg dose of Sustiva.

The drug is an integrase inhibitor, which blocks the ability of the virus to replicate. According to Bloomberg, the only approved integrase inhibitor is Merck's Isentress. Dolutegravir bested that HIV drug in a separate trial last year. Viiv reviewed the data at a conference in Rome.

- here's the story from Bloomberg