HERPES DRUG PROLONGS LIVES OF AIDS PATIENTS By Marc Kusinitz A drug used to treat herpes infections can significantly prolong the lives of AIDS patients already taking AZT. Researchers from Johns Hopkins and three other institutions published the results of the study in the July 15 issue of _Annals of Internal Medicine_. Individuals who took the anti-herpes drug acyclovir after developing AIDS had a 44 percent decreased risk of dying. "This is the first time we've had really good news about survival with AIDS since AZT became available," said Neil M.H. Graham, associate professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health and an author of the paper. "Not only does the study suggest acyclovir prolongs survival in AIDS patients, but the dose needed appears to be no more than that required to suppress a herpes simplex infection," said Daniel Stein, director of Albany Medical Center's clinical pharmacology studies unit and senior author of the paper. The researchers found that the longer acyclovir was used without interruption, the more strongly it was associated with increased survival; acyclovir did not, however, delay the onset of AIDS in men who were HIV-positive. For men who started acyclovir one year after developing AIDS, 93.9 percent survived for two years, compared with 86.2 percent who never used acyclovir. For men who started acyclovir only after their CD4 cell count fell below 50 cells per milliliter, the two-year survival was 69.8 percent compared with 31.4 percent among those who never used acyclovir. The study included 786 HIV-positive men in the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study, a long-term study of HIV infection in more than 5,000 homosexual and bisexual men. All 786 HIV-positive men in the study began taking AZT before being diagnosed with AIDS. Among them, 488 subsequently took the anti-herpes drug acyclovir either to treat herpes infections or AIDS or HIV-1. Of these, 242 used acyclovir only to treat AIDS or HIV-1 infection.
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