The first complete treatment for AIDS that is taken once a day as a single pill is expected to be available soon.
The pill, which combines three drugs made by two companies, would be a milestone in improving the simplicity of treatment for the disease, experts say. It should make it easier for people to take their medicine regularly, which is important for keeping the virus that causes the disease in check.
Only a decade ago, when cocktails of AIDS drugs were first used, patients often had to take two or three dozen pills a day, some with food, some without, some so frequently patients had to get up in the middle of the night. Since then, the regimens have been whittled down to as few as two pills a day, and now, one.
"Going down to one pill a day is amazing," said Keith Folger of Washington, who started on 36 pills a day about 11 years ago and expects to switch to the new pill when it becomes available.
Mr. Folger, who is just leaving a job as director of community mobilization for the National Association of People With AIDS, said the pill would be "remarkable, especially for people who are starting on medication for the first time and are sort of freaked out that they will have to take pills for the rest of their lives."
The new drug is a combination of drugs already on the market — Sustiva, sold by Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Truvada, sold by Gilead Sciences. Truvada is a combination of two Gilead drugs, Viread and Emtriva.
The Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve the new drug as soon as this week. The agency has until October to act but is expected to do so much sooner, partly because the government has been encouraging companies to do just this sort of collaboration to come up with simpler AIDS drugs.
The companies have not revealed the new drug's name or its price, though they have suggested it will cost roughly the same as Sustiva and Truvada bought separately, which is about $1,200 a month.
There are already other AIDS pills that combine three drugs. One, made by a company in India, was recently approved by the F.D.A. for use in developing countries. But those other three-in-one pills generally contain older drugs and are taken twice a day./AzerTAc/