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HIV Vaccine 848

Posted by samzenpus
from the a-step-in-the-right-direction dept.
The Sexecutioner writes "WebMD is reporting on a new vaccine which has had an incredible effect in clinical trials. The vaccine, composed of human dendrites holding dead HIV viruses, has dropped test patients' viral load by up to 90% in one year. Could this be it?"
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HIV Vaccine

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  • Mixed feeling (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fembots (753724) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @07:21PM (#10968564) Homepage
    While I am glad that we may have found the cure to HIV that kills millions every year, I wonder if the vaccine will be affordable to those unfortunate ones?

    I got a feeling that only those wealthy people can afford to get fixed up, but most of them caught HIV due to their irresponsible action. Yet innocent victims who caught the disease, for instance by birth, may never see the light.

    It seems like most medical findings are "open-source", that you can read about them in journals, but the actual cost to produce a medicine is usually very prohibitive.
    • The theory sounds easy enough for anyone to handle.

      But it requires 2 items from the patient's body.
      #1. Dendritic cells
      #2. Dead virus

      This doesn't sound like something that can be mass produced which means that the price will be high for most of the world.
      • by PaulBu (473180) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @08:03PM (#10969050) Homepage
        ... now all you need is a "machine" to combine them! Think about the possibility of a drug which, after injected, ties itself to the dendritic cells and starts hunting in your blood for dead viruses, then replaces itself with the dead virus body -- hey, you've just produced a vaccine!

        The bottom line is that now that the positive effect is demonstrated, the next step is to find out the cost-effective way to combine cells and dead viruses, preferrably in-viro. Let's hope that someone will manage to do it!

        Paul B.
    • by violet16 (700870) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @07:28PM (#10968662)
      Well, it's a trade-off: we want private companies to invest billions of dollars to develop medicines we need, but they'll only do so if there's the potential for profit. If there isn't, capital will flow out of drug companies's R&D budgets and into car manufacturers or something.

      Governments that want to make a new life-saving drug available to all, not just those who can afford it, are free to subsidize it. Citizens and governments in wealthy countries who want to make the drugs available to citizens of poor countries can likewise fund it.

      It's easy to paint a company as horrible because it wants to charge a lot of money for a life-saving new treatment. But in many cases that treatment wouldn't exist if the company couldn't make money from it.
      • by flossie (135232) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @07:36PM (#10968759) Homepage
        Well, it's a trade-off: we want private companies to invest billions of dollars to develop medicines we need.

        The dependence on the private sector is the real problem here. Of course, pharmaceutical companies spend a lot of money on R&D and expect to make it back with the lucrative successes. However, this is not necessarily the best solution for society as a whole. Particularly in countries with a national health service funded by general taxation, paying lots of money to drugs companies is not an efficient use of resources. Directing the same money to universities to perform the research would ensure development of the same life-saving drugs while also ensuring that the drugs can be made available to all who need them.

        • by DogDude (805747) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @08:24PM (#10969275) Homepage
          No offense to university people, but universities are horribly inefficient places for real world type of work. Businesses are designed around efficiency. Ever heard "those who can't, teach"? It's true. Academia is good for theoretical work, but not for actually getting something done. Academics don't have any real incentive, and in jobs that are driven by tenure and seniority, you're inevitably going to have lots and lots of inefficiency.
        • by TheSync (5291)
          As noted in the European Commission's recent Communication on an industrial policy for the pharmaceutical industry, the EUs share of "new chemical entities" (NCEs) developed worldwide has fallen from one half 20 years ago to only around one third today. Moreover, a McKinsey study has shown that Europe lags behind in major innovations. Of the NCEs developed in 1975-1989 categorized as "breakthroughs," as opposed to those representing merely "therapeutic progress," two-thirds originated in the laboratories of
      • by Rei (128717) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @07:59PM (#10969008) Homepage
        I wish it were that simple. Unfortunately, drug companies only spend a small amount on R&D - in "The Truth About Drug Companies", Dr. Marcia Angell discusses how on average drug companies spend 2.5 times as much on advertising as they do on R&D. Furthermore, 1/3 of the drugs being marketted by the major manufacturers were discovered by universities or small biotech firms, but are being sold at greatly inflated prices.

        For example, Taxol was discovered by NIH, but has been sold by Bristol-Meyers Squibb for 20 times what it cost to produce, and NIH only gets 0.5% royalties. Most drugs that the drug industry itself develops are what she calls "me-too" drugs - drugs that perform the same function as an already extant drug on the market with little difference, and often are based on the same chemical formula with minor modifications. They need not be more effective than current formulations in order to be able to be sold - just more effective than a placebo.

        The top 10 pharmaceutical companies make more money than the rest of the Fortune 500 combined. And not only are they granted a limited monopoly, but they often cheat. For example, Astra-Zeneca, when their exclusive rights to Prilosec expired, patented a combination of Prilosec and an antibiotic, and then sued a manufacturer of generic Prilosec because a doctor might proscribe it along with an antibiotic and thus infringe on their new patent.
        • by Maniakes (216039) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @11:53PM (#10971016) Journal
          on average drug companies spend 2.5 times as much on advertising as they do on R&D

          Part of the advertising spending is dead weight, but not all of it. Advertising does have the effect of making potential customers aware that there are drugs that treat their conditions. How much benefit does a drug do if nobody knows about it? Before you say the doctors will tell their patients, remember that drug companies telling doctors about their drugs is still advertising, and remember that not everyone goes to a doctor over every ailment, especially if they mistakenly think there is no treatment.

          1/3 of the drugs being marketted by the major manufacturers were discovered by universities or small biotech firms

          Then I take it 2/3 of drugs being marketed by the major manufacturers were developed internally. And how did the manufacturers get the IP rights from the small biotech firms? If they bought the rights or pay royalties, then they are paying for the research that went into the drug plus the firm's profit. I doubt all small biotech firms are as dumb as the NIH was with Taxol.

          Most drugs that the drug industry itself develops are what she calls "me-too" drugs

          "Me-too" drugs limit the ability to abuse the limited monopoly by acting as competitors. That's a Good Thing. Or should everyone still be using Mosaic because all other browsers developed are "me-too" software?

          They need not be more effective than current formulations in order to be able to be sold - just more effective than a placebo.

          If a drug doesn't provide benefits in effeciveness, side effects, interactions, or price, most doctors won't prescribe it. Doctors do have easy access to reference material on all these factors, and part of what they're paid for is to know how to evaluate which drug is best for which patients.

          The top 10 pharmaceutical companies make more money than the rest of the Fortune 500 combined.

          Good. How much is a few more years of life worth to you? Or not being impotent? Or relief from chronic pain? And if it's not worth to you what people are paying, switch to an insurance plan that doesn't cover prescription drugs and opt out of the whole affair.

          And not only are they granted a limited monopoly, but they often cheat.

          This part is genuinely lame. IP law need fixing to limit these kinds of abuses.
        • by TheSync (5291)
          Can you just shut up about "me too" drugs!

          I know plenty of people whose quality of life (an capability of staying alive) depends on the fact that, for instance, there are several different kinds of dopamine antagonists (prochlorperazine, metoclopramide, domperidone) used in gastroparesis, since they all have different effectiveness and different side effects in different people. I know people who might not be alive today if, for instance, a decision was made not to produce domperidone, but they just stuck
      • People are not corporations, however, and it's by and large corporations who do things like develop drugs, not people.
    • Re:Mixed feeling (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Skyshadow (508) * on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @07:28PM (#10968675) Homepage
      First, I think it's way too early to think this is a cure for HIV.

      Aside from that, when you RTFA you'll see that this isn't a regular drug, it's more of a therapy -- as I understand it, you use cells from the patient's own body and basically train them to combat the HIV virus. Unless you can create a generic version that would work across populations, it's not as simple as just shipping a bunch of shots off to the third world like we were able to do with polio.

      As for "open source" drugs: You should realize it isn't that simple. It costs a lot of money to find, test and approve new drugs. While I'd agree that our current system enriches the drug companies at the expense of the little people (among a myriad of other problems), it's really important not to assume you can think of the industry like you do computing.

      • by cryptochrome (303529) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @10:06PM (#10970224) Journal
        Like the parent said, it's a therapy, not a vaccine. It looks like it can help people who have been infected with HIV keep from developing AIDS, but it's not a cure and it won't prevent infection. Still, it's a welcome development.

        The fact is, HIV is the most daunting disease we have ever faced. If it had hit even 50 years earlier we may very well have faced an epidemic on the order of the Black Death. It infects and kills stealthily, and evolves within our bodies faster than our immune systems can recognize it. If it hadn't hit the gay community so severely and specifically we might not have even been able to identify it, and it's only thanks to advanced sequencing and crystallography technology that we can study it in the necessary depth. But what is really sobering is this: HIV has infected tens of millions of people, living and mutating within their bodies for decades, and as far as we know no one has ever fought off an infection. The human immune system may very well be completely unable to handle HIV, and that means we may never see a traditional vaccine.

        But we live in an age of rapid technological progress, and I do know of three promising possiblities that could actually prevent infection. None of them has yet been tested.

        The first is another line of french vaccine work [pasteur.fr]. Sequence comparison between various strains of the virus had identified a highly conserved protein region on the GP41 surface protein. The antibodies produced against the peptide seems to target the virus extremely well in the lab. So why don't we see antibodies against this epitope in the real world? It turns out we sometimes do - but those people can still get sick. It may yet be useful but based on that simple fact I'm not holding my breath.

        The second hasn't even had an in vitro experiment yet and technically doens't prevent infection, but is a highly unusual and novel approach. Researchers at Berkeley have come up with the idea of a virus that is a parasite of HIV itself. The trick is that the antivirus cannot push the level of HIV too low, or the antivirus itself will die out and latent HIV will come back, which they were able to demonstrate thanks to computer simulations of the population dynamics. However, it can mute HIV activity and thus prevent infection from developing into full-blown AIDS. What's more, if the carrier happens to spread AIDS to someone else, the antivirus will go with it, and when HIV mutates the antivirus can still affect it. HIV would become a virus that people could live with without it killing them. But there is no way to know whether or not something unforseen can happen with what is essentially genetic engineering, and at the very least moving that research from the computer to the real world will be a real task. There is a lot of work to be done there.

        The third technology could be the real deal. The fact is, some lucky people are resistant to HIV infection. Their CCR5 receptors [projinf.org] are knocked out, and apparently HIV is unable to fuse with the cells as a result. Genetically altering your immune system to suppress this gene might thus offer protection against AIDS. However, that same mutation may be associated with multiple sclerosis [blackwell-synergy.com]. Again, nothing like this has ever been tried.

        That's as far as I know, really. I regret that society and the government cynically ignored the epidemic when it was in far fewer people and might have been stopped with quarantine because it happened to affect a group that many people weren't fond of. I suspect now society may have to accept the inevitable and stop people from having multiple sexual partners. I fear the possiblity that HIV could mutate into something that can infect even without sexual contact in the meantime.
        • by nfotxn (519715) on Thursday December 02, 2004 @01:09AM (#10971545) Journal
          "I suspect now society may have to accept the inevitable and stop people from having multiple sexual partners. I fear the possiblity that HIV could mutate into something that can infect even without sexual contact in the meantime."
          Your comment was interesting and well researched up until this point. Much of the HIV research done in high risk groups of individuals has revealed that polyamoury is very much a part of our human animal. The discovery of heterosexually identifying MSM's (men who have sex with men) is a particular point of interest. These men often covertly have sex with other men but are otherwise heterosexualy identifying. Most importantly is that these men consider themselves heterosexual and monogamous. They aren't "fags with aids", at least in their minds.

          The idea of "enforcing" monogamy is a pretty chilly concept. Much of the AIDS epidemic in the developed world has it's roots in this societal stigma of it being the sexual deviant's disease. A virus kills indiscriminantly. As a culture we should choose to continue developing our responsible sexual civil liberties. It's only with openess and education that we will control this disease in the present. State enforcement of behaviour is socially retroactive and inconsequential. The choice to make love with whom we please is not a crime. It's a modern responsibiliy that we choose to take.
          • It's not so much society that would do the enforcing, it would be the disease. As in if you have sex with anyone who has had multiple partners you have a strong possiblity of catching the disease, and thus anyone who has multiple partners will instantly come under suspicion. Or worse, the uncautious people will just start dying and leaving the cautious people alive.

            Keep in mind, the whole extramarital sex thing has only been socially acceptable for 40 years or so. Though it has been practiced for much l
        • The fact is, HIV [sic] is the most daunting disease we have ever faced.

          While I don't intend to convert this into a my-disease-is-more-dangerous-than-yours competition :-), I don't think you've been in any affected region during last year's SARS crisis. I was, and boy was it scary; streets once lively even at 3AM, turned ghostly.

          Which, of course, is not to deny that AIDS is daunting.

          If it had hit even 50 years earlier we may very well have faced an epidemic on the order of the Black Death.

          One rathe

    • Re:Mixed feeling (Score:5, Informative)

      by Hortensia Patel (101296) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @07:34PM (#10968736)
      If it's effective, it will be affordable, one way or another. If the maker sets the price too high and governments or aid agencies don't step up, the demand will be met by the generics makers, and governments will turn a blind eye as necessary. No amount of flak about "respecting IP" outweighs a quarter of your population dropping dead.

      I wouldn't be surprised to see the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation get involved here, too. Say what you like about Bill, the Foundation has done some good work in this field, and he's not short of the shekels.
    • Think long term (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Synn (6288)
      The stuff might start off expensive, but eventually the process will be refined and more mass producable. A lot of processes start off like that: at first only the wealthy can afford it, then it becomes more common and mainstream.

      The important thing is to get the initial process or idea out there in the first place. Then you can get people to work on it and refine it. But you need the right balance of: reward the inventors vs allow others to mass produce it.

      If you don't reward the inventors, then you take
    • Re:Mixed feeling (Score:5, Informative)

      by lavaboy (21282) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @07:46PM (#10968867)
      Actually, the vaccine is being designed for use in countries where conventional therapy is simply much too expensive. It can be kept at temperatures up to 50 degrees (C) for up to 2 years - which, together with the fact that it seems to only work against the HIV-B strain (most common in Africa), seems to indicate that it is headed for sub-saharan Africa. One of the doctors following / contributing to this project gave a presentation on it at the Munich AIDS Days seminar last week. Although the stage one trials on people are showing some progress, the processing involved (own cells, own virus) still makes it kind of prohibitive - i heard that the time frame for wide-spread therapeutic use is 5-10 years.

      The unfortunate fact is: it isn't a cure, but a management therapy which should allow infected people to live longer, more productive lives. Even worse - the pharma corps seem to be losing interest in designing new drugs - there hasn't been anything new for about 3 years now... No money in it, especially now that the UN and various charities are clamoring for reductions in trademark and other IP law restrictions. Good for HIV+ persons in poor countries, bad for the pharmacorps bottom line...

      • Re:Mixed feeling (Score:3, Informative)

        by scrub76 (637816)
        Haven't red the WebMD blurb, wasn't at the Munich AIDS Day, but I did read the article in Nature Medicine and I am an HIV researcher. First, HIV clade B is NOT most common in Africa, it is most common in North America / Western Europe. Clade C predominates in Southern Africa, while clade A predomiantes in East Africa. Though frankly, it doesn't matter much in this context. For this vaccine to work, the scientists extract the patient's own HIV (clade probably won't matter), inactivate the virus chemically, a
    • Re:Mixed feeling (Score:3, Insightful)

      by lightknight (213164)
      I tend to think that anyone who is infected with HIV is unfortunate. Or cancer. Or any other nasty disease.

      "I got a feeling that only those wealthy people can afford to get fixed up"

      Well, think of the wealthy as gamers who want the latest rig. They have the money, and are willing to shell out for the cure when it is new and relatively rare. When R&D costs are paid off, or manufacturing costs drop (they begin mass producing the cure), then the masses will join them.

      "but most of them caught HIV due to
    • Re:Mixed feeling (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @07:52PM (#10968932)
      most of them caught HIV due to their irresponsible action

      Begging your pardon, sir, but I have HIV and I didn't get it through irresponsible action. I received the virus through an unfaithful wife, with whom I believed I was in a monogamous, long-term (10+ years) relationship.

      I realize that your sheltered existence makes it easy for you to dismiss the majority of the millions who suffer from HIV as irresponsible, but I'm here to tell you, it's not always so, nor do I find that most cases (at least that I know of through the support groups) are caused by irresponsibility.

      Just think about this before you dismiss "most" of HIV sufferers. I did not engage in dangerous activities. I was not an intravenous drug user. I did not engage in homosexual sex. I didn't apply medical care to an HIV patient without appropriate protection.

      I had sex with my long-term partner. And now I'm left to die, knowing that I never stepped beyond what was "safe".

      HIV is a terrible disease, and it can affect anyone. Chalking a majority of infections to irresponsibility is facile and dangerous. Nobody is safe from this terrible, terrible disease.
      • Re:Mixed feeling (Score:4, Insightful)

        by stienman (51024) <adavis@u[ ]ics.com ['bas' in gap]> on Thursday December 02, 2004 @01:30AM (#10971671) Homepage Journal
        I realize that your sheltered existence makes it easy for you to dismiss the majority of the millions who suffer from HIV as irresponsible, but I'm here to tell you, it's not always so, nor do I find that most cases (at least that I know of through the support groups) are caused by irresponsibility.

        If you assume that all heterosexual contact infections were 'responsible', and then add in blood transfusions, coagulation disorders and other 'responsible' actions, then you still end up accounting for under 20% of infections in the US. [avert.org]

        HIV/AIDS is terrible, and I certianly don't want to discount the lives that are affected by it.

        However, claiming that the majority of infections, at least in the US, are not preventable is far more dangerous than saying that "Chalking a majority of infections to irresponsibility is facile and dangerous."

        The caveat 'at least in the US' applies because in other countries, especially the African nations, the culture of male dominance actually speeds the infection. A large percentage of those infected perhaps did not have the opportunity to act responsibly.

        I understand how to protect my computer from virus and other attacks, and therefore I have not had an infection on any of my computers for over a decade.

        I understand how to protect myself from sexually and body fluid transmitted diseases, and therefore I am not HIV/AIDS positive.

        I don't claim that I am immune - far from it - but my chances are greatly reduced. Perhaps equal to your chances prior to your infection.

        I claim that if everyone chose to avoid placing themselves in risky situations, whether it be visiting a warez site and catching a virus, or getting drunk at a party and sleeping with a stranger, then the incidence would be drastically reduced. If this was the case, then efforts could go into protecting 'innocent' sufferers of the disease who got it not by risky behavior, but through other's risky behavior.

        What the parent is pointing out is that you are not only a minority being part of the 2% of Americans suffering with this disease, you are also a minority within the disease, being one of the few who got it without engaging in risky behavior.

        I hope for a simple, cheap treatment and eventual cure for this virus and the disease that generally follows. Until then, I hope that people act responsibly - that is our current best, and only, effective defense.

        I cannot possibly understand what you are going through, but I wish you the best of luck.

        -Adam
    • by jd (1658)
      If half of your potential customers are dead or dying, you lose half your income. So, to make up for this, companies raise their prices to make up for what they think they'll lose, which prices them out of the reach of even more people, who will therefore die from lack of the necessary resources. This reduces profits further. To compensate, they raise prices further, and the dance goes on.

      The logical thing is to lower the price on critical core medications, so that they're in the reach of most or all peop

  • Wait, a vaccine? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Skyshadow (508) * on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @07:21PM (#10968568) Homepage
    I'm confused about the terminology: If it was used on patients who already had HIV, wouldn't that be a treatment rather than a vaccine? Or does the way if works -- apparently reconfiguring the immune system to recognize HIV -- technically qualify it as a vaccine since that's basically how vaccines work?

    I'd imagine that this sort of therapy could be useful against a whole range of viruses since (as I understand) it operates by training the immune system rather than crippling something specific to the virus the way that other HIV treatments do. If that'd work for most viruses, maybe someday people will be able to just update their own virus definitions a few times a year -- of course, most of them probably wouldn't bother and then call me for support when they open some damn .exe file they got in their friggin' email and... Sorry, started drifting there for a second.

    Of course, it's awfully early to get too excited given this is just 18 people in Brazil so far, and "incredible effect" might be a bit strong since only 44% of the very small number of test patients are still showing the full benefit after one year, but I suppose any good news in this sort of scenario is, well, good news.

    PS: Am I the only one who finds it darkly ironic that "The Sexecutioner" submitted this story?

    • Re:Wait, a vaccine? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Bastian (66383) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @07:26PM (#10968635)
      It's considered a vaccine when you're inoculating the patient with live or dead specimens of the pathogen with the goal of getting the patient's own immune system to handle the disease on its own.

      In this particular case it's being used for therapy rather than trying to give someone immunity to a disease, but it's still a vaccine.
      • Not quite. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by raehl (609729) <raehl311@[ ]oo.com ['yah' in gap]> on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @07:59PM (#10969011) Homepage
        What is in the vaccine is not important. The difference between a treatment and a vaccine is that the treatment attacks and kills the pathogen, or just alleviates symptoms. A vaccine acts like the pathogen, causing an immune response that attacks and kills the pathogen, or a cellular response that stops the pathogen from being destructive.

        Vaccines do not have to be made from live or dead specimens of the pathogen - they can also be made of specimens of a similar pathogen (smallpox vaccine is made from cowpox, for example), or anything that mimics a critical part of the pathogen closely enough to trigger an immune/cellular response.

        People tend to think the difference is that vaccines PREVENT disease and treatments treat disease only because most people get vaccines before they have a chance to be exposed to a disease. If you somehow ended up with Polio or Smallpox or whatever, they'd still give you a vaccination to get your body to take care of it (and that's what they did back when they first created the vaccines).
  • Well... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Blue-Footed Boobie (799209) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @07:22PM (#10968580)
    I would think it might be a tad premature to be asking "Could this be it?".

    It would be nice though.

  • FDA approval? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by k4_pacific (736911) <k4_pacific@noSpaM.yahoo.com> on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @07:23PM (#10968590) Homepage Journal
    How much you wanna bet that it won't be approved for use because, I don't know, say, it causes liver failure in 1% of the recipients or something.
    • Re:FDA approval? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by FuzzzyLogik (592766)
      LOL... look at the FDA's wonderful load of crap lately.. how many drugs have been pulled that the FDA said was ok? give me a break... the FDA in my opinion has turned into a load of shit...

      and to add to that look how the government was trying to stop people from getting their drugs from canada.. and yet when the flu vaccine had a shortage here who did they get more vaccine from? oh yes. canada.. who's drugs you can't trust...
    • Re:FDA approval? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by sugar and acid (88555) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @08:55PM (#10969572)
      Well the real cause for concern with the latest scandal with drugs and the FDA is a fundamental problem of pharmaceutical companies continually trying to reinvent the wheel by making new drugs to treat highly common cronic diseases with treatments that are just as effective already ( eg long term prevention of heart disease, athritis, obesity, depression, sleeping disorders), with often a "me to" approach of producing new drugs that work similary to drugs from another company (notice the explosion in erectile disfunction drugs after the introduction of viagra.

      In the case of vioxx, the treatment was designed for anti-inflammatory pain relief in arthritis, by inhibiting an enzyme COX2. It is about as effective as another drug many of us have taken ibuprofen (Advil) for this purpose but instead of being 3-5 bucks for a bottle of 50 to 100 pills, it was sold at ~$2 a pill (it is also how aspirin works to relieve pain as, thus the running joke that the pharmaceutical companies had invented the $2 apirin).

      So what was so much better about vioxx that it was developed, FDA approved and prescribed by doctors.

      Well it doesn't inhibit another enzyme COX1, like aspirin and ibuprofen do. Inhibiting Cox1 has several effects, the two most important are: the negative effect, gastrointestinal problems like stomach bleeding and ulcers; but it also has a positive effect which is prevention of blood platelet aggregation which prevents blood clots, heart attacks and strokes. This is why aspirin is taken to prevent heart attack, if you take aspirin to prevent heart disease and a specific COX2 inhibitor for arthritis like vioxx together you are really losing the benefit vioxx had over ibuprofen.

      Anyway not everyone has a sensitivity to asprin and Ibuprofen, there are estimate that only 8% of those prescribed Vioxx actually got a benefit over cheaper alternatives, but vioxx had a great ad campaign that convinced everybody that they should "ask" (read demand) their doctor to prescribe it, even though it is vastly more expensive. Also the FDA approval could be pushed through because of the "benefit" to those 8% of patients that had gastrointestinal sensitivity to aspirin and ibuprofen.

      So what have they found out now- well just inhibiting COX2 by itself actually causes increased blood platelet aggregation and increased risk of heart disease and stroke, this effect is balanced out by the inhibition of COX1 in aspirin and ibuprofen etc. that prevents platelet aggregation.

      Now the real issue, Vioxx was pushed out to compete with very cheap, safe and well charactised drugs (so we know all the side effects etc., why do you think you can buy them at the supermarket) due to a very long history of use. Patent it and get it approved for use by the FDA targeting it to one small specific group that have a problem with current treatments to help push the approval through. Once it is approved marketing it to a much wider group of people that are not the specific target group, and will not gain any benefit over a cheaper, better characterised and now known to be safer alternative. To compound the problem the TV advertising of prescription drugs now almost approaching saturation increases this problem by getting the public to demand drugs they don't need.

  • Cost (Score:2, Interesting)

    by agarrett (803743)
    I sincerely hope this is it.
    If it is, my only apprehension is that countries who need it most will not be able to afford it.
  • What's a dead virus? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by alehmann (50545) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @07:24PM (#10968609) Homepage
    I always hear about vaccines involving "dead" virus material. But I thought viruses weren't alive in the first place; that they were essentially protien envelopes containing viral DNA or RNA. Can anyone explain?
  • by spacerodent (790183) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @07:24PM (#10968617)
    THe real question is does its effect at combating the virus continue and improve? Dropping the viral load count dosn't mean much if it only works once and or dosn't ever wipe it out. Besides this sounds more like a treatment (which is more profitable) than a vaccine (which is what you get so you never get aids)
  • THERAPEUTIC vaccine. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Shag (3737) * on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @07:25PM (#10968624) Homepage
    You''ve got to have that word in there.

    It's a vaccine because it "teaches" the immune system how to deal with HIV - at least to the extent of keeping it from getting worse, and in some percentage of cases, enough to drastically lower the viral load and rate of transmission.

    But it's not a PREVENTIVE vaccine like most widespread vaccines, and it can't be mass-produced since it uses material from each patient and is custom-made for them.

    It's still potentially a great leap in terms of treatment of HIV/AIDS, though.
  • On a related matter. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by killjoe (766577) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @07:26PM (#10968633)
    I just read this.

    Apparently Brazil is ready to go ahead and break the patent of several drug companies because they can't afford to pay for them.

    New drugs are great but only if you can afford to take them.
  • by ramk13 (570633) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @07:31PM (#10968695)
    to catch the things that aren't in the summary.

    This isn't a generic vaccine that's created in mass and given to everyone. The 'vaccine' is generated using viruses and dendrites from the specific patient. So it has to be done for each person. It reduces viral loads, but doesn't eliminate the infection.

    Still it sounds really promising, but there's a LOT of work that would need to be done before this got anywhere close to general use. Also the article doesn't say how complex/expensive the process is per person. It doesn't sound like it's third world friendly, at least at the moment.
  • 90% drop misleading (Score:5, Informative)

    by jackelfish (831732) * on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @07:31PM (#10968707)
    While this study (Nature Medicine Advance On-line publications [nature.com] Subscription required) shows promise, it is only a preliminary trial that included 18 participants. Sixteen of the participants were female and two were male. The figure stated in the /. article, of a 90% total drop in viral load, is not quite accurate. The article states that the patients plasma viral load levels were decreased by 80% (median) over the first 112 days following immunization. It then goes on to say that a prolonged suppression of viral load (up to 1 year after inoculation) of 90% was seen in only 8 individuals.

    From my analysis of the HIV RNA expression data from this paper, after 1 year, eight of the patients had viral loads reduced by 90% or better, two patients had their viral loads reduced between 80% and 90% six patients had viral loads that were reduced somewhere between 10% and 50% and two of the patients actually had an increase in plasma HIV RNA levels.
  • Forget about it (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FiReaNGeL (312636) <fireang3l&hotmail,com> on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @07:38PM (#10968791) Homepage
    Great idea : it may be of use for patient with resistance to all known anti-retrovirals. But...

    It is NOT a vaccine. It is NOT a cure. It's a temporary (at best) treatment. The title is highly misleading. And its far from practical. You need to isolate dendritic cells from an (infected) patient, which is costly, require specific equipment and isn't trivial (forget developing countries, which can't even afford AZT). Then you pulse these cells with killed HIV, which I assume should come from the patient (else soon the treatment will go ineffective due to mutations acquired by the virus) and you reinject the cells, which will go 'alert' the immune system that something is wrong. So mass scale treatment is out of question. Basically, you're only boosting the (ineffective) immune system against HIV-1. After a year, their treatment reduced viral load by 90% in 8 of 18 patients. 90% isn't a lot (anti-retroviral do a lot better than that), and they aren't even achieving 50% success after a year. I would imagine that after 2 or 3 years, the success rate is even lower. And the CD4 count is stable, not increasing to normal levels.

    So no, its not 'it'. Don't hold your breath either.
  • by Kenja (541830) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @07:39PM (#10968796)
    "Could this be it?"

    You'll know when its it. To quote the late great Bill Hicks, when there's a one shot cure for AIDs they'll be fucking in the streets.

  • by Cryofan (194126) <cryofan@@@yahoo...com> on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @07:50PM (#10968903) Homepage Journal
    Note that this research is being done in brazil and france, and so I doubt it is being funded by the so-called "free market" (yeah, right) profits from American pharmaceutical companies. You know the ones, those that are ripping us off, and paying Rush Limbaugh to spread propaganda about how we Americans are carrying the rest of the world with our free market (yeah, right) healthcare system.

    Oh, by the way, France has nationalized healthcare--anyone walks right in and gets healtcare without paying. Real good system. Oh, yeah, that's right. We Americans are subsidizing their healthcare by paying for all this research.

    Hmm. So that's why this vaccine to beat AIDS is coming out of France and Brazil.....

    • by lukesl (555535) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @09:12PM (#10969744)
      The reason this work is coming out of Brazil is the same reason the spinal cord story earlier this week came out of Korea. Namely, ethics. The single greatest hindrance to scientific advancement in the US. In the US, it would be unethical to conduct this study, because you couldn't let a group of people go without HIV meds for a year. That would be unethical. It's the same way it's unethical to test experimental therapies on patients with terminal cancer. Since their disease is terminal, it can be argued that they are consenting out of desperation, and the researcher is therefore taking advantage of them.

      In any case, dendritic cells were discovered in the US, HIV was discovered in the US, etc., so it can't be argued that the giant money machine of US science didn't contribute. It also can't be argued that the US does not lead the world in biomedical science. This is because we spend so much money on it that the best scientists from all over the world are concentrated here. However, I agree with you that this is not the same as the idiotic statement that we are subsidizing other nations' healthcare.
      • HIV was discovered in the US

        Actually, no, it was discovered in France. While the complete research was done between a French (Montaigner) and an American scientist (Gallo), the actual discovery of the virus (not disease, virus) was done at l'Institut Pasteur by Montaigner and his team.
        L'Institut Pasteur is a french public organization, owned and funded by the french governement.

        In a quick google I found this link http://cbs5.com/news/local/2004/04/20/HealthWatch : _HIV_Discovery,_20_Years_Later.html
  • woohoo (Score:4, Funny)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportlandNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @08:13PM (#10969137) Homepage Journal
    usher in a new error of free love!
  • by Jugalator (259273) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @08:16PM (#10969183) Journal
    This is more like an AIDS vaccine.

    It doesn't stop HIV infections, but it prevents them into evolving into full-blown AIDS and reduces the risk of infection. Which sounds pretty good too, of course. :-) However, I'm not sure it removes the symptoms from HIV [wikipedia.org].
    • It doesn't stop HIV infections, but it prevents them into evolving into full-blown AIDS

      The study only lasted one year. That's not enough time to really say whether it will prevent AIDS symptoms. They could, in theory, get sick next year, or next week.

      reduces the risk of infection

      No it doesn't, since the vaccine must be manufactured from a victim's own blood, and HIV virus from their own blood. The way I'm reading the article, it seems the vaccine is made on a person-by-person basis and can't be used

  • by hedley (8715) <hedley@pacbell.net> on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @10:37PM (#10970441) Journal

    *zzzzzt*

    Free sex for all humans!

  • by ciphertext (633581) on Wednesday December 01, 2004 @11:10PM (#10970668)

    From the article:

    The vaccine is made from a patient's own dendritic cells and HIV isolated from the patient's own blood.
    "The results suggest that [these] vaccines could be a promising strategy for treating people with chronic HIV infection," Andrieu and colleagues write.

    This approach requires that you already have the HIV infection. This does not protect you from infection. This is not a cure. This is a treatment. It isn't clear that this will prevent you from spreading the infection either. This MIGHT prolong your life expectancy or even improve the quality of your life.

  • by bug (8519) on Thursday December 02, 2004 @05:43AM (#10972543)
    Am I the only person who thinks that therapeutic treatments (like this one) designed to prolong the lives of epidemic disease carriers is actually a horrible idea in the long term? Looking at this from a purely survivability-of-the-human-race perspective, the idea of increasing the exposure of disease carriers to healthy populations is not so hot. Prevention/eduction is key, and a full cure would be fantastic, but an in-between solution just isn't good.
  • by peter303 (12292) on Thursday December 02, 2004 @10:57AM (#10974093)
    In the early 80s cats were dying off from an immune system destroying virus too. Yetr medicine was lucky enough discover a vaccine quickly. Its a routine pet service now. This encouraged early predictions of a quick vaccine for the human version. But no such luck.
  • by PMuse (320639) on Thursday December 02, 2004 @01:55PM (#10976055)
    From the article: The vaccine is made from a patient's own dendritic cells and HIV isolated from the patient's own blood.

    Think about what that means. No mass production. A blood sample from each patient must be taken, processed, and the finished vaccine returned to that patient, without error. There is no generic serum.

    Forget the patent flame-war for a minute. The production costs of this thing are prohibitive. The costs of this thing will look more like the costs of in virto fertilization procedures than they will look like a vaccine.

    I'm sorry to say that this announcement is, as yet, a nice bit of research and nothing more.

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