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PWAs closer to drug access

Health Canada, bowing to public pressure, approved a clinical trial of the experimental AIDS therapy drugs sought by six Vancouver people, Dec 20.

“I’d say we had a partial success,” says one of the patients, BC Persons With AIDS Society chair Paul Lewand. “Hopefully within a month, the drugs will be available for five of the six people who needed them.” One person died waiting.

“There is all sorts of good news about this,” says Lewand. “We worked really hard to make something happen and something did happen. Just not everything we wanted.”

Lewand says only the five surviving patients will get access for now.

Lewand’s physician, world-renowned HIV/AIDS specialist Dr Julio Montaner, wanted the drugs approved for use under a compassionate care program, but Health Canada said the drugs are not eligible because they haven’t yet been proved safe for humans. Instead they approved a clinical trial of the drugs.

“I trust Dr Montaner completely,” says Lewand, and he says Montaner has assured him the trial will proceed as quickly as possible. But, asks Lewand, “How can you do a legitimate clinical trial for five people? It doesn’t really make sense. There can be no placebo given to half the group.”