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AIDS

Norway HIV drug trial ‘is a step towards cure’

A Norwegian drug firm on Tuesday announced an advance in its quest for an HIV cure with a drug combination which seeks to force the virus out of its hiding place and kill it.

Norway HIV drug trial 'is a step towards cure'
The so-called "kick-and-kill" approach to fighting HIV is a promising approach. File photo: AFP

A trial with 17 HIV-positive patients yielded a “statistically significant decrease” in the virus, biotech firm Bionor announced.

“This is a major achievement on the path to a functional cure for HIV,” Bionor spokesman Jorgen Fischer Ravn told news agency AFP.

There is no cure for the disease AIDS, caused by HIV. but anti-retroviral treatments help people live longer, healthier lives by delaying and subduing symptoms.

In some who undergo treatment, however, the virus takes cover in cells and hides away, only to reemerge once therapy is stopped.

This latency has been one of the biggest hurdles in developing a cure.

“Waking up” the virus and then destroying it — the so-called “kick-and-kill” approach — is a promising strategy for ridding patients of HIV.

Bionor's approach involves an anti-cancer drug called romidepsin to wake up the dormant HIV, and a vaccine called Vacc-4x to prime the body's own immune T-cells to recognise and destroy the virus.

“After an activation of the virus, which would normally lead to detectable virus in the blood, Vacc-4x ensured killing of the virus-producing cells to maintain non-detectable or very low levels of virus in the blood in 15 out of 17 patients,” said Fischer Ravn.

No-one has yet been cured of AIDS.

Thirty-nine million people have died of AIDS, according to UN estimates, and about 35 million are living with the immune system-destroying virus today, overwhelmingly in poor countries.

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MEDICINE

Norwegian authorities reject new motor neurone disease medicine

Approval has been rejected for the use of the compound edaravone to treat motor neurone disease in Norway.

Norwegian authorities reject new motor neurone disease medicine
File photo: Thomas Winje Øijord / NTB scanpix

The medicine was assessed by the National System for Managed Introduction of New Health Technologies within the Specialist Health Service in Norway (Nye Metoder, NM) on Monday, news agency NTB reports via media Vårt Land.

“We will not be introducing edaravone as a treatment option because it has an uncertain and likely small effect,” the authority’s CEO Stig A. Slørdahl told Dagens Medicin.

Motor neurone disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig's disease, is a serious disease that causes the death of neurons controlling voluntary muscles.

Many patients develop cognitive as well as physical symptoms. The cause of the disease is not fully understood.

Edaravone protects nerve cells from damage by a form of particle known as free radicals. Studies show that this can slow the progression of the disease, NTB writes.

It is yet to gain approval in Europe but has been used in the United States, Japan and South Korea.

According to the Norwegian Medicines Agency, 28 patients in Norway are currently receiving the treatment. The course of treatment is six months at a cost of one million kroner (134,000 euros) per patient.

The agency writes that only one out of three recognised medical journals, based on four various studies, concluded a positive overall effect of the drug compared to a placebo. In that conclusion, the medicine had a small effect on a subgroup of patients at an early stage of the progressive disease, NTB writes.

READ ALSO: Norwegian hepatitis C patients wait for treatment due to medicine monopoly: report