New York A new, experimental drug is raising hopes for AIDS sufferers with strains of the virus that are resistant to existing treatments, but the manufacturing process is expected to mean high prices and limited quantities.
Dubbed Fuzeon by its developers, Roche Group and Trimeris Inc., the drug won a priority, six-month review from the Food and Drug Administration. The companies hope to be approved and on the market next spring.
The drug is the first in a class known as fusion inhibitors, which are designed to block HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, from entering blood cells. It acts on the third stage of that entry process, known as fusion.
It is expected to prolong the lives of patients with drug-resistant strains.
Roche, based in Switzerland, and Trimeris, of Durham, N.C., won't discuss pricing details until the drug is approved, but say Fuzeon is complicated to produce and will be expensive. Experts predict a cost of between $10,000 and $15,000 a year per patient.
The most expensive AIDS drugs now available cost about $7,500 a year, although some combination treatments approach $15,000 annually.