This week marks the tenth anniversary of the approval of the first protease inhibitor. In December of 1995, a then new class of drug for the treatment of HIV/AIDS in combination with other antiretroviral drugs represented an historic landmark in the treatment of HIV/AIDS. Protease inhibitors helped establish a new treatment standard of triple combination therapy, significantly improving the lives and health of people living with HIV in the United States and around the world.
Of course, the FDA would know when the real anniversary would be. In my mind, I tend to think of the advent of protease inhibitors in terms of when they became more widely available, when we struggled to find the funding to get them added to AIDS Drug Assistance Programs, when we began to see the incredible reversals in people's health once they began taking the "cocktail."
We can celebrate that later anniversary time next year, but now is a good time--in between our seasons of thanks giving and good will to all--to think about our friends whose lives were, quite literally, saved by these medications. Many of them are still with us, still working beside us, and many of them would not have been had it not been for these medications. This is a happy anniversary indeed!
And yet, it remains to be said that some states still cannot provide these medications to all who need them. It remains to be said that these drugs worked so well for those who did receive them that we face even greater pressures on our public safety net as we try to find ways to maintain standards of care. It remains to be said that the public has become complacent because of these drugs, thinking, all too erroneously, that they are a cure, that by making HIV/AIDS "chronic" and "manageable" it is no longer life threatening.
It's still a happy anniversary, but we do have some work to do, don't we?