May #59 : 5.2.89: Take Two - by Carl George

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Table of Contents

Fitness 2000

Big Trouble

Size Matters

This Little Drug Went To Market

The New Opiate for the Masses

The Attack of the Killer Causes

Editor's Letter


Merging Medicine Chests

Kaiser Rolled

Catching Up With…

Action Jackson

A Great Hydeia


Deaf Jam

A Signal Man

A Queen Who Cares

Lensing Up

Festival Fare

Mastur Class

Covered Reflections

Paradise Paradigms


President Nader

War Paint

Welcome To Conservatism

Put Up Your Nukes

Shelf Life

Time For An E-Full

Work In Progress

Work In Progress

Comfort Zone

Get High on Glutathione

Herb Of The Month

5.2.89: Take Two

Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle


Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV

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May 2000

5.2.89: Take Two

by Carl George

The day when the FDA finally gave the nod to DHPG and pentamidine, HIVers could breathe a sigh of relief

First found my way to the PWA Health Group in 1986 because a friend in Toronto called and asked me to buy whatever they had—didn’t matter what, he said just buy it. Dozens of people were waiting in line for frozen egg lipids from Israel that tasted terrible and a 40-pill combination of German enzymes that had to be taken twice a day and caused awful upset stomach and flatulence. They didn’t work, but with more-viable drugs mired in FDA red tape, there was nothing else.

The death toll was rising fast— friends, acquaintances, famous
people—and still no drugs. PWAs tried anything from quack remedies, untested treatments to slow the virus and assuage the desperation. People were dying sometimes only weeks after diagnosis. Usually Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) did it, filling the lungs with fluid and drowning them. Those who escaped PCP might live long enough to go blind when cytomegalovirus (CMV) spread into their retinas. We were all terrified.

Finally on May 2, 1989, after a four-year community push, PWAs testimony before Congress and a barrage of demos, two drugs were recommended for approval by an FDA advisory group: aerosol pentamidine to treat or prevent PCP, and DHPG (Gancyclovir) for CMV. Neither drug was fun. Pentamidine required you to breathe the aerosolized drug through a mask for anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. It was very harsh and left a persistent, distinctly metallic taste in the mouth, but it worked. DHPG was even worse, requiring daily direct injections, “infusaports” if your veins were too thin or a Hickman catheter permanently embedded in the chest. No picnic. But we finally had the drugs—PWAs could use them, pushing blindness away, cheating death for a time and bringing hope into our lives.  

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