The Discovery and Development of Antiretroviral Agents
(2014; 10 pages)

Antiviral Therapy 2014; 19 Suppl 3: 5-14


Since the discovery of HIV as the causative agent of AIDS in 1983/1984, remarkable progress has been made in finding antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) that are effective against it. A major breakthrough occurred in 1996 when it was found that triple drug therapy (HAART) could durably suppress viral replication to minimal levels. It was then widely felt, however, that HAART was too expensive and complex for low- and middle-income countries, and so, with the exception of a few of these countries, such as Brazil, a massive scale-up did not begin until the WHO launched its ‘3 by 5’ initiative and sizeable funding mechanisms, such as the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria and the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), came into existence. A pivotal enabler of the scale-up was a steady lowering of drug prices through entry of generic antiretrovirals, competition between generic manufacturers and the making of volume commitments. The WHO Prequalification of Medicines Programme and the Expedited Review Provision of the US Food and Drug Administration have been important for the assurance of quality standards. Antiretroviral drug development by research-based pharmaceutical companies continues, with several important innovative products, such as long-acting agents, in the pipeline.

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