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Panel Backs Pfizer HIV Drug

The FDA is scheduled to decide in June on maraviroc.

A panel of outside medical advisers said Tuesday that the Food and Drug Administration should approve a


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HIV and AIDS drug to treat patients for whom other medications aren't effective.

The advisory committee unanimously endorsed maraviroc, a pill that Pfizer started developing in 1997. The FDA isn't bound by advisory panel recommendations, but the agency usually follows the suggestions. The FDA is scheduled to decide in June.

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If approved, maraviroc would be the first in a new class of drugs called CCR5 antagonists, also known as CCR5 inhibitors. These drugs fight the AIDS-causing human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, in a

different manner than other medications. Maraviroc blocks HIV from entering cells through a pathway called a CCR5 coreceptor, one of two entry points for the virus.

Analysts predict maraviroc can be a solid but not spectacular contributor to corporate revenue. For example, Zacks Equity Research recently forecast worldwide sales could reach $490 million by 2011. Sagient Research Systems, an independent tracker of drug development, recently predicted that U.S. sales alone would be $403 million by 2011.

The advisory panel recommended that Pfizer conduct additional tests to assess side effects and the drug's effectiveness on a broader population than has been tested. In the company's clinical trials submitted to the FDA, 90% of the patients were male and 83% were Caucasian.

In late trading Tuesday, Pfizer's stock was off 15 cents to $26.22.