AIDS Breakthrough: Pill Can Help Avoid Infection

Gilead Sciences helps cut the risk of HIV infection

By Scott Budman
|  Wednesday, Nov 24, 2010  |  Updated 12:47 AM EDT
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The fight against AIDS just achieved a major new breakthrough:  a pill may help prevent men from getting the HIV infection in the first place.

A pill that's been used to help treat those who get the HIV infection, called Truvada, is now thought to actually help prevent healthy gay men from getting the virus. 

Truvada, a combination of tenofovir (you may have seen it sold as Viread) and what's sold as Emtriva, is sold by Gilead Sciences, a Silicon Valley biotech company that has long fought back against AIDS and HIV.

Through the years, Gilead has seen encouraging results in the fight against AIDS, which is largely why Gilead has stood out in a sea of biotech companies most people have never heard of.

Gilead (GILD) has seen its share price rise much more consistently than a typical biotech company; it's big enough that its fortunes don't rise and fall based the success of a single drug. 

But back to Truvada.  After fighting to help those who already have the disease, the drug is now said to help when it comes to prevention. 

According to findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Truvada reduced new infections by as much as 73 percent among healthy males who used it regularly.  The study followed about 2500 HIV-negative men, said to be at risk for catching the disease.

But (and this is a standard warning when it comes to biotech stories), it's not a sure thing.  The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quickly warned that condoms are still the best way to prevent HIV, and that Truvada has not been approved for that actual use.

Scott can be reached on Twitter:  @scottbudman

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