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HIV and AIDS Patients Offered a Once-Daily Pill

It is being called the world's first once-a-day treatment for HIV and AIDS, and it promises to make life easier for AIDS patients who have had to take a multitude of pills in the past. Wednesday, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced approval of the medication.

It's called Atripla ... and it will be first offered in the United States as a salmon-colored pill. Atripla will be distributed later as a white pill in other countries. The new drug could be shipped eventually to 15 developing countries, most in Africa, where the Bush administration has promised support to combat the disease.

Dr. Andrew Eschenbach of the Food and Drug Administration praised the effort by rival companies working together to develop the combination drug. "It is a model of the proactive collaboration between the FDA and therapy developers, to streamline the process so that we can bring lifesaving interventions to patients at the earliest possible time."

AIDS patients and medical experts working in the field have long wished for a single pill to make the drug treatment more convenient. Studies have shown that many AIDS/HIV patients fail to keep up with the regimen of a multitude of pills every day. The fewer drugs needed, health officials say, the more effective the treatment would be on a community wide basis.

In parts of Africa and other developing nations, the storage and distribution of fewer pills would also make treatment more economical.

HIV/AIDs patients in the United States will pay about $1,100 for a month's supply. The cost of Atripla is expected to be much cheaper for those stricken with the disease in poorer countries.