At a glance: The daily single anti-HIV treatment?

Yes, Atripla is a joint venture between Bristol-Myers Squibb and Gilead that combines three drugs in a once-a-day tablet. The US Food and Drug Administration granted approval for it last week and, without further ado, it was due to launch this week.

What are the drug's constituent parts?
Atripla combines BMS's Sustiva (which is in the class of HIV drugs known as non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors) and Gilead's Truvada. The latter is itself a mixture of two Gilead anti-HIV products, Viread and Emtriva (both nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors).

The other classes are fusion inhibitors and protease inhibitors.

Is Atripla available over here?
Not yet. But both companies are working towards a launch in the UK, and until then are likely to base PR around ‘milestones' such as trial data.

Who is doing what in PR terms?
In the US, BMS's agency on virology is Golin Harris, but the pharma firm said it will be doing much of the work in-house. Burson-Marsteller handles BMS's UK virology work, which includes Sustiva and another HIV treatment, Reyataz. APCO provides public affairs support for the firm's HIV portfolio. In some markets (although not the US or UK), Merck will partner with either BMS or Gilead in marketing the new drug.

Why is Atripla significant?
One of the major problems for HIV sufferers is having to take a combination of pills, some of which must be swallowed with water or food or both, and some on their own. By combining them, Atripla will help improve quality of life - although it will not suit everyone.

What other brands are on the market?
More than 20 anti-HIV medications are licensed for use in the UK alone. GlaxoSmithKline has a range of HIV treatments including Combivir and Trizivir, which are both in the same class as Viread and Emtriva. Protease inhibitors include GSK's Agenerase. Most are in tablet form but Roche's fusion inhibitor Fuzeon is injected.

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