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Drug To Be Tested Against AIDS

October 3, 1985

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (AP) _ A drug that has been available in other countries as a treatment for viral infections will be tested at eight major medical centers in this country to see if it can help AIDS patients, officials say.

The drug ribavirin appears to reduce the activity of the AIDS virus so the body can more easily fight off infections, but it is not a cure for the disease, officials said Wednesday in announcing the clinical trials.

Ribavirin will be tested on 350 patients who have AIDS-related complexes, but have not yet developed symptoms of the disease itself, said Jackie Reinhardt, a spokeswoman for ICN Pharmaceuticals Inc., the drug’s developer.

Ribavirin is available in pill form in 17 other countries for treatment of such viruses as herpes, influenza, hepatitis, respiratory syncytial virus and other viruses, said Dr. Weldon Jolley, president of ICN’s Nucleic Acid Research Institute. AIDS patients in this country have been obtaining it in Mexico.

ICN is approaching the AIDS trial cautiously in spite of the favorable results of a trial involving 23 patients by Dr. Richard B. Roberts at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, Jolley said. The Cornell results were announced in July.

″Our best investigators do not know what is going to happen,″ Jolley said. In particular, he said researchers have no idea if ribavirin will help patients after they have developed symptoms of acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

ICN, of Costa Mesa, Calif., hopes the Food and Drug Administration will permit the trials to begin before the end of the year, said Charles Smith, a spokesman for Eastman Kodak Co. of Rochester.

Kodak has a minority interest in ICN and the two jointly operate the Nucleic Acid Research Institute in Costa Mesa, which is researching a wide range of anti-viral compounds.

The clinical trials, to be coordinated by Dr. Karl M. Johnson of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, are slated to last 20 weeks and, if successful, might be extended, Jolley said.

Five of the participating medical centers are New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center in New York City; M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston; the University of Southern California in Los Angeles; the University of California at San Diego; and Miami University in Florida.

The other three have not been decided on, Smith said.

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