Drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline has reached an agreement with the International Partnership for Microbicides to test several of the company's existing and experimental anti-HIV drugs for use as topical microbicides that aim to prevent HIV infections occurring through unprotected sex, The Wall Street Journal reports. The announcement did not say which Glaxo drugs or how many medications would be tested, but it could include experimental fusion inhibitors that aim to jam a key receptor HIV uses to latch onto and infect immune system cells. The Glaxo drugs will be tested by microbicide researchers at St. George's Medical School in London.
Zeda Rosenberg, executive director of the IPM, called the agreement with Glaxo "the first step in a long process of identifying products that might make good microbicides." IPM currently has two experimental microbicides in advanced trials and expects three more compounds to begin human trials later this year or in early 2005.
AIDS experts say that a microbicide gel, foam, or sponge could be useful to help prevent HIV infections among women, particularly women in developing countries who often are unable to insist that their partners use condoms. Researchers say that even a partially effective microbicide used by 20% of women in 73 developing countries only half of the time they engage in unprotected vaginal sex could prevent 2.5 million HIV infections over three years. Although most microbicide products being studied are designed for vaginal use, some early studies are underway to see if some of the compounds could be useful to prevent HIV infections through anal sex.