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Drugs of the Dallas Buyers Club

After watching Dallas Buyers Club, you may be looking for more information on the drugs that were in demand during the early stages of the AIDS epidemic. These medications were not approved by the FDA, and some were more effective than others. In fact, of the drugs we discuss in this article, only AZT is still being used for HIV/AIDS today.


Dallas Buyers Club -- What Is the Movie About?

Dallas Buyers Club is a critically acclaimed film that is set in the early days of the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) epidemic, shortly after the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was discovered. It describes a real-life AIDS patient, Ron Woodroof, who smuggled unapproved drugs into Texas and distributed them to other patients through the "Dallas Buyers Club."
When the movie begins in 1985, a blood test was available, but no drugs were approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of HIV/AIDS. Since the disease was always fatal, people infected with HIV were desperate for any type of treatment. Here is an introduction to some of the drugs mentioned in the movie and how they are viewed today.

AZT (Zidovudine, ZDV)

Zidovudine, formerly called AZT, was the first FDA-approved drug for AIDS. It inhibits reverse transcriptase, an enzyme that allows the virus to copy itself. The drug is depicted as being highly toxic in the movie, but it has been an effective therapy for HIV/AIDS since 1987. The early clinical trials shown in the movie used too high a dose, causing side effects that led to its dangerous reputation. HIV also quickly becomes resistant to zidovudine when it is used as a person's sole antiviral medication.
Today, zidovudine is the drug of choice to prevent transmission of HIV from infected mothers to babies and to treat children who have contracted HIV. It is also used in combination with other drugs to prevent infection after occupational exposure to HIV-containing fluids or sexual contact with a partner who is HIV positive.
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