Has Gilead Sciences ($GILD) delivered the holy grail of HIV treatment? A new study shows that the company's Truvada pill actually kept high-risk patients from contracting the virus. It's the first time an oral HIV drug has proven helpful as a long-term preventative for uninfected men. Experts hailed the results as "a major breakthrough" but cautioned that it's not a panacea--or a reason to stop using condoms.
The trial tracked almost 2,500 men at risk of contracting HIV. One hundred of them caught the virus during the study: 36 of the Truvada patients and 64 of the placebo patients. That's a 44 percent reduction in risk, as Reuters reports. But Truvada worked even better in the men who actually took it consistently; those who took the pills at least 90 percent of the time had 73 percent fewer infections than the placebo group did.
Gilead says it's not sure whether it will ask the FDA to approve Truvada as a preventative, but doctors can, of course, prescribe it off-label for that use. Either way, the company doesn't expect a big surge in sales. And Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Geoffrey Porges told Bloomberg that preventive use of Truvada "does not represent a significant commercial opportunity." Even if financial types weren't bowled over by the news, AIDS activists were pumped. "The end of AIDS is no longer a dream, it's in sight," one told the news service.