Researchers for Agouron Pharmaceuticals reported at the 10th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections that food intake has a marked effect on Viracept levels in the body, with the highest levels of the protease inhibitor detected in the blood of study subjects who had the largest food intake. Study subjects who took the medication with meals containing 500 to 1,000 calories and consisting of 20% to 50% fat achieved blood-based levels of the drug at levels three to five times higher than patients who took the medication on an empty stomach. If the body absorbs too little of the medication, HIV can mutate and become resistant to the drug. Higher levels of the medication in the bloodstream better keep HIV replication in check, preventing the development of drug resistance.
A typical breakfast meal that would provide the caloric level achieved in the study would consist of eight ounces of orange juice, four ounces of yogurt, one cup of cereal, eight ounces of 2% milk, and one slice of toast with a teaspoon of butter.
"The data observed in this initial study offer significant insights and provide a foundation for further study on the effect of food and fat intake on steady state pharmacokinetics in people with HIV," said lead study author Carolyn Petersen. "It is important to understand how to optimize drug levels, as that may correlate to effectiveness and our ability to control the virus." Additional studies are planned.