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Drug is effective against severe fungal infections in cancer and transplant patients, study shows

San Antonio (Sept. 16, 2003) — There's a bit of good news today for cancer chemotherapy and organ and bone marrow transplant patients, who are more susceptible to life-threatening fungal infections.

Researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSC), speaking Sept. 16 in Chicago at the 43rd Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, said an antifungal treatment called voriconazole is more effective and less costly at treating invasive aspergillosis than the standard first-line therapy against the infection. UTHSC researchers Thomas F. Patterson, M.D., professor of medicine, and James Lewis, Pharm.D., infectious diseases pharmacy specialist, presented results of global studies of the treatment.

"For patients whose immune systems are compromised by cancer chemotherapy or organ and bone marrow transplants, invasive aspergillosis can be fatal," said Dr. Patterson. "These studies showed that patients initially treated with voriconazole had better outcomes and incurred fewer antifungal drug costs than patients treated initially with the prior gold standard therapy, amphotericin B."

Dr. Patterson and other investigators assessed how initial therapy with voriconazole impacts ultimate outcomes compared to amphotericin B. Overall, voriconazole patients had a 53 percent success rate as compared to success in 32 percent of patients on amphotericin B. Notably, success occurred in only 23 percent who were switched from amphotericin B for intolerance or progressive infection, suggesting the importance of effective initial antifungal therapy.

The studies also showed that initial therapy with voriconazole resulted in significantly reduced drug costs when compared to treatment with amphotericin B. Per patient cost was $722 less for patients receiving voriconazole than those randomized to initial therapy with amphotericin B due to the fact that patients initially receiving amphotericin B required other licensed antifungal therapy. "The cost of antifungal therapy must include both the total drug costs as well as the potential for a positive outcome," said Dr. Lewis. "The reduced drug cost seen in the study is influenced by the improved efficacy and tolerability of voriconazole when compared to other therapies."

Invasive aspergillosis is a severe pulmonary infection usually accompanied by chest pain, fever and coughing. The infection can spread throughout the body and can settle in numerous organs, including the brain. If left untreated, invasive aspergillosis can kill within a matter of days.

Voriconazole, which is marketed by Pfizer Inc., is a treatment for progressive, potentially life-threatening fungal infections.

Contact: Will Sansom or Natalie Gutierrez