the federal government's chief of AIDS research,
testified in a recent trial that he believes pharmaceutical
companies aren't seriously focusing on HIV
vaccine research because there is no financial
incentive to do so and that the government is being forced
to pick up the slack. "It's not going to be made by a
company. They're dropping out like flies because
there's no real incentive for them to do it. We have
to do it," Tramont, head of the AIDS research
division at the National Institutes of Health,
testified regarding HIV vaccine development in a
deposition in a recent employment lawsuit obtained by
the Associated Press.
Tramont, in a
follow-up e-mail to the Associated Press, wrote
that the pharmaceutical industry tends to be less
committed to any vaccine research and development
because it is not a profit center for the companies.
"It is not just an HIV vaccine--it's all
vaccines--that is why there was/is a shortage of flu
vaccines," Tramont wrote to the news service.
the pharmaceutical industry blasted Tramont's claims.
"That is simply not true," said Ken Johnson, senior
vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and
Manufacturers of America. "America's
pharmaceutical research companies are firmly committed to
HIV/AIDS vaccine research and development with 15
potential vaccines in development today. Vaccine
research is crucial to controlling the AIDS pandemic,
and our companies are well aware of the need to succeed in
this vital area of science."
There are more
than 30 experimental HIV vaccines in small-scale human
tests around the world, according to the International
AIDS Vaccine Initiative. However, IAVI officials say,
most of those vaccine candidates will likely fail
because many of the compounds are similar in design and
are not able to keep up with HIV's ability to easily
mutate and escape the body's immune system
defenses. AIDS experts in Europe have predicted that
it could be 20 years or longer before an effective HIV
vaccine is available to the public.
The largest human
trials to date of an experimental HIV vaccine, called
AIDSVAX, revealed in early 2003 that the vaccine was
ineffective at preventing HIV infections. AIDSVAX
developers are now studying the compound to see if it
is helpful in conjunction with antiretroviral drugs in
treating those already infected with the virus.