The Food and Drug Administration today cut in half the recommended dose of AZT in response to new research that shows lower levels of the AIDS-fighting drug work as well and are safer than the original dose.
AZT is the only government-approved drug that directly attacks the AIDS virus. More than 40,000 AIDS-infected Americans take AZT, according to the drug's manufacturer, Burroughs Wellcome Co.
Health and Human Services Secretary Louis W. Sullivan said the decision to reduce the recommended dose means "that fewer patients may have to discontinue AZT therapy because of serious side effects."
Along with the potential reduction in the number and severity of side effects, the cost of AZT should be less. It now costs about $6,400 a year for the standard AZT dose of 12 capsules daily.
The side effects, including severe anemia, have forced about half of all users to stop taking the drug. AZT is not a cure for the always fatal disease but is used to prolong life.