Claims For AIDS' Drop Due To
Wonder Drugs Is Way Off
Recent News Reports Reveal
47% Are On No Drug Therapy
By Christine Maggiore
Dear Christine, I used to think it was reasonable to question the HIV hypothesis since for years we had no real success in treating AIDS. But the latest news reports confirm that protease inhibitors are making sick people well by reducing their viral load. These drugs are causing the first drops in AIDS deaths. Doesn't the success of these cocktail treatments prove that HIV cause AIDS?
Michael B., Silverlake
Dear Michael, Good question! With all the news stories touting the incredible achievements of protease inhibitors, it could appear that those of us who challenge the HIV hypothesis should finally shut up and join the cocktail party. Major media consistently tell us that the decline in AIDS deaths is an unprecedented occurrence that is due to advanced drug therapies. I can report from the front lines of the AIDS war that most AIDS doctors question the sanity of patients who don't swallow this latest treatment trend? In some cases, "non-compliant" HIV positives are actually tossed out of the office. However, a critical look behind the headlines and the claims of eager physicians reveals that there is no compelling medical or epidemiological data to support popular ideas about PI drugs.
Rarely mentioned in news reports is the fact that the decline in AIDS deaths began three years before the Protease Inhibitor drugs were approved for general use. Decreasing mortality rates began in 1993, while the first cocktails received FDA approval in 1996. A more likely explanation for declining deaths would be the change in the official AIDS definition initiated in 1993 which allows HIV positives with no symptoms or illness to be included as AIDS cases. Since 1993, more than half of all newly diagnosed AIDS cases are counted among people who aren't sick.
A careful examination of the numbers show that cocktails have nothing to do with the decrease in new AIDS cases. According to Centers for Disease Control reports, AIDS cases had leveled off by 1991, and increased only once since then following the 1993 expanded AIDS definition. It seems that adding new criteria to what can be called AIDS has been the only cause of rising AIDS numbers since 1991.
In regard to the news stories of AIDS patients who rise from their death beds to run marathons after dosing up with Protease Inhibitor drugs, they are just that - stories. In science, this kind of information is dismissed as anecdotal, which comes from the Greek word anekdotos, which means unpublished. None of the anecdotal tales of amazing recoveries that filled the pages of Time and Newsweek last year have ever been substantiated by published reports in peer-reviewed medical journals. This absence of data speaks volumes: When a drug manufacturer has nothing favorable to report from studies of its products, they don't publish the studies in medical journals. In the pharmaceutical industry, silence is golden, while the stories picked up by the media from industry press releases are platinum.
One of the two papers published on PI drugs therapies (September 1997 New England Journal of Medicine) cited mortality rates from a single trial that was prematurely terminated after less than six months and before, as protease expert Dr. David Rasnick points out, "statistically significant results could be attained." As is standard practice in AIDS drug trials, no placebo control was included (the study compared drugs to drugs). The study also disallowed reporting of any new AIDS defining illnesses that cropped up among participants (except recurrent pneumonia) and the results reported were for only a tiny fraction of the patients enrolled.
Only outside the science journals are there are abundant reports (based on drug company press releases) that praise the new AIDS drugs. But if you look past the headlines, the truth often speaks louder than PR. The LA Times' recent protease inhibitor coverage cited the new treatments as 100% responsible for everything from lowered AIDS deaths to dropping case numbers while, at the same time, complaining that only 18% of those who "need" the drugs are actually on them, that they fail to work for 20-50% of those who use them, and in fact 47% of AIDS patients use no treatment at all. Makes you wonder if AIDS reporters are required to work with broken calculators...
To answer the rest of your question, it's important to note that viral load tests are not able to isolate or measure actual virus. The manufacturer of the widely used Amplicor viral load test states "Amplicor is not intended to be used as a diagnostic test to confirm the presence of HIV..." Also worth noting is that levels of viral load don't correlate with health or even the presence of virus. In the only study of its kind (Science 259 March 1993, Piatek, et al), 53% of AIDS patients with detectable levels of viral load - even viral loads ranging in the hundreds of thousands - had no HIV virus.
So what does it mean to have lower viral load? Not much, evidently. Back in the days of the Concorde Study (the longest and largest AIDS drug study ever conducted), 40% of participants on combinations of older drugs like AZT and ddI experienced undetectable levels of viral load with no clinical health benefits as a result. Since patients on those "mocktail" combinations experienced no reduction in illness or mortality through reduced viral loads then, there is no reason to expect any real or lasting benefits from the reduced viral load found in some patients using today's cocktails.
ALIVE & WELL Alternative AIDS Information Network (the organization formerly known as HEAL Los Angeles), offers Free Information, Free Meetings and Classes Challenging the HIV-AIDS paradigm. Call toll-free for details 877/92-ALIVE.
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