Will Big Pharma Ever Let Nature Step In To Quell HIV?

Regular use of anti-retroviral drugs not only slows the progression of this disease but blocks transmission to others.  Whether that information gives HIV sufferers the license to practice unguarded sex is unknown.  Body fluids are the vector for transmission of HIV.  [Daily Mail UK Aug 18, 2016]

HIV, a retrovirus, affects 1.2 million people in the U.S.  The cost of anti-HIV drugs is outrageous, ranging from $500 to $3400/month.  [Healthline]  The anti-HIV drugs work, if drug resistance doesn’t set in.  However, their cost is overwhelming.  Even with insurance, one HIV-patient saw his co-pay on two anti-HIV drugs rise from $24 to $295 and $42 to $205.  Ouch! [Buzzfeed]

Drug resistance is now a growing problem that forces patients to take more than one drug.  Usually when more options become available, prices decline via competition in any given product category.  But not so with anti-HIV drugs.  There are more drugs and the prices keep rising.

The rate of transmitted drug resistance is 10-17 percent.  About 10% of people with HIV are unable to maintain an undetectable viral load during treatment.

One anti-HIV drug is 92% effective when taken consistently.  [Washington Post Sept 4, 2015]

Male to female HIV transmission represents 80% of transmitted cases globally.  The search for a topical anti-HIV microbicide is a priority.

It has recently been reported that natural molecules called flavonoids possess anti-HIV properties.  Myricetin, derived from the Asian raisin tree, inhibits HIV 86% versus 45% for quercetin, another flavonoid common found in onions and apple peel.  Compare those figures with a microbicide now under development that is 39% effective at reducing transmission of HIV.  [PLoS One 2014]

In an earlier study it was reported that flavonoids “almost completely inhibit the activity of the HIV reverse transcriptase enzyme at a very low concentration.  Myricetin and quercetin inhibited this enzyme 100%.  [European Journal Biochemistry July 5, 1990]  Reverse transciptase is the enzyme that facilitates the growth of retroviruses such as HIV.

Doesn’t this provide evidence that the drug approval process serves to limit competition from natural unpatentable remedies that are obviously far less expensive?  Sales of anti-HIV drugs reached $13.3 billion in 2011.  [Economist June 2, 2012]

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