Group launches program to develop drugs for pediatric HIV

The Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi) has launched a new drug development program to address treatment needs of children with HIV. While developed countries can claim victory in virtually eliminating HIV infection in children due to effective prevention of mother-to-child transmission, there is little market incentive for pharmaceutical companies to develop antiretroviral drugs specifically for children in developing nations. This is why DNDi exists.

DNDi was launched in 2003 by research organizations around the world to develop medicine for diseases that impact the world's poor and fall through the cracks of R&D efforts of Big Pharma. The group is developing new treatments for malaria, visceral leishmaniasis, sleeping sickness (human African trypanosomiasis, HAT) and Chagas disease. Now, they're adding pediatric HIV to the list.

"There are millions of children with HIV/AIDS in low- and middle-income countries, but their needs are absent from the HIV research and development agenda, and this is largely because they are poor and voiceless and do not represent a lucrative market," Dr. Bernard Pécoul, DNDi's executive director, said in a statement. "Working with partners, we hope to help fill this terrible gap and offer improved treatment options for children with HIV/AIDS."

According to the DNDi release, the World Health Organization recommends immediate antiretroviral therapy (ARV) for all HIV-positive children less than two years old. The problem, though, is that nobody has established safe dosing guidelines for use of ARV in very young children. "Current pediatric ARV formulations are unpalatable for these children, are impractical for caregivers due to multiple liquid preparations that have to be adjusted according to weight, and have undesirable interactions with tuberculosis (TB) drugs," the release said.

DNDi's first priority will be to develop an improved first-line protease inhibitor-based regimen for children under three years old.

- read the DNDi release
- and listen to a related podcast

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