Drug therapies are significantly extending the lives of AIDSpatients, according to a San Francisco study presented at theSeventh International Conference on AIDS.

In the study of 3,264 AIDS patients diagnosed between 1987and the end of last year, the San Francisco Department ofPublic Health found that patients who received any of severaldrug therapies did far better than patients who received nodrugs.

Patients who received ddI, an anti-viral developed by Bristol-Myers Squibb, had the highest survival rates of any group.

George F. Lemp, chief of the surveillance branch of the AIDSoffice at the department, presented the data on Tuesday inFlorence, Italy. The findings were made available to BioWorldprior to the conference.

"Even after we controlled for variables such as time ofdiagnosis, taking other drugs and risk category, you still see alower risk of dying for patients taking ddI," said AnneHirozawa of the surveillance branch.

Lemp emphasized that a controlled trial would be necessary todetermine which drugs actually work best.

AZT is the only Food and Drug Administration-approvedtherapy. AZT and ddI belong to a class of compounds callednucleoside analogs. They inhibit the replication of viralgenetic material and slow the progression of infection.

Acyclovir, another drug tried in combination with AZT, is anucleoside that inhibits several herpes viruses. Aerosolizedpentamadine is used against Pneumocystis carinii in AIDSpatients.

Lemp also presented survival data for 9,872 cases reported inSan Francisco between July 1981 and the end of 1990,including the period from 1981 to 1985, when no therapy wasavailable.

For patients diagnosed between 1981 and 1985, mediansurvival was 11.1 months, with 46.1 percent survival at oneyear and 18.8 percent survival at two years. For patientsdiagnosed in 1986 and 1987, median survival was 15.4 months,with one-year survival of 58.9 percent and two-year survivalof 30.8 percent. For patients diagnosed between 1988 and1990, median survival was 17.7 months, with 63.1 percentsurviving one year and 36.1 percent surviving two years.

Survival rates varied by initial diagnosis. For example, therates more than doubled for patients initially diagnosed withPneumocystis carinii pneumonia, from a median of 10.3 monthsin 1981-85 to 21.7 months in 1988-90. But survival forpatients diagnosed with lymphomas was unchanged.

-- Karen Bernstein BioWorld Staff

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.