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French AIDS Drug No Better Than American Drug, American Doctors Say With PM-Rock Hudson Bjt

July 26, 1985

NEW YORK (AP) _ American doctors say an experimental AIDS drug being tested in France is no better than drugs under investigation in the United States, even though many American AIDS patients have gone to France for treatment.

On Thursday, Rock Hudson’s Beverly Hills, Calif. doctor, Rexford Kennamer, said Hudson had seen doctors at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, which has been treating American AIDS victims.

Ron Najman, spokesman for the National Gay Task Force in New York, said that at least 15 Americans are being treated for AIDS at the Pasteur Institute, and that many other Americans have gone there for treatment and returned.

Dr. Samuel Broder, chief of the clinical oncology program of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Md., said Thursday that two drugs - including the French drug - can reduce the amount of AIDS virus in the bloodstream of patients but cannot consistently improve patients’ health.

Broder, a specialist on experimental AIDS treatments, said he was not familiar with Hudson’s case and couldn’t comment on it.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Md., said the French drug, HPA 23, may have more dangerous side effects than a drug Fauci is studying called suramin.

″There really is no indication at all that it (HPA 23) is any better, and it’s considerably more toxic, there’s no question about it,″ he said. HPA 23 causes a drop in the levels of blood cells called platelets, which in turn can lead to bleeding disorders, he said.

HPA 23 is not yet available for human tests in the United States, Broder said.

In February, Jean Claude Chermann of Pasteur, one of the drug’s developers, reported in New York that the drug had caused the AIDS virus to nearly disappear in the blood of a young hemophiliac.

Chermann emphasized that the drug does not kill the AIDS virus, nor can it be called in any sense a cure.

Researchers in France have not said whether Hudson is receiving the drug, and it was not until Thursday - after days of speculation, rumor, and misinformation - that Hudson’s publicists confirmed he was suffering from AIDS, not liver cancer as they had said earlier.

Broder said some 40 patients have now received suramin, but not enough evidence has yet been gathered to determine its effectiveness. Both suramin and HPA 23, he said, ″inhibit the virus, but to date we can’t say that they get rid of the virus from the body.″

When treatment with the drugs is stopped, levels of AIDS virus tend to rise again, Broder said. ″Whatever antiviral therapies emerge in the long run, it is likely that they will need to be given for a very long time because the virus has a tendency to stay in the body.″

A French drug company called Rhone Poulenc Sante has an agreement with the Pasteur Institute to manufacture the drug. The company said in a statement Thursday that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has shown a willingness to speed the approvals required for human testing of HPA 23 in this country.

Broder warned that isolated cases of apparent recovery - like that of the young hemophiliac described by Chermann - do not mean that a drug is effective.

″It’s very difficult to make scientifically sustainable statements on the basis of one individual report,″ he said. ″Individuals have an infinite variety of things that might affect their individual case. You could say the same thing about suramin. There are individuals who doctors in the community feel might have had an improvement on suramin. The correct conclusion is that one can make no therapeutic claim about suramin.″

Many more drugs that might be helpful against AIDS are under development, Broder said. ″No one will know if they work or not, but these are drugs that will be brought into clinical (human) trials.″

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