Skip navigation
D. Going After the Cause of AIDS Wasting

Narrator: This is Science Today. One terrible effect of AIDS is wasting -- extreme weight loss leading to death. It can be treated with human growth hormone. But doctors are testing the notorious drug thalidomide to see if it can stop wasting too. If growth hormone does the job, why look elsewhere? Dr. Morris Schambelan of the University of California, San Francisco is one of the doctors testing the drug.

Schambelan: For two reasons in my mind. One of them is growth hormone's quite expensive, and because it's a recombinant protein it's going to be expensive to manufacture even if it's scaled up and even if competitive forces drive the price down.

Narrator: Thalidomide, though, is cheap. Its other advantage is that it goes after the cause of AIDS wasting: proteins called cytokines, released by the body's immune system. Growth hormone simply overcomes the effects.

Schambelan: If this directs itself more to the cause of wasting as opposed to trying to overcome the effects, which is what growth hormone does, it's a more elegant solution to the problem.

Narrator: In spite of its terrible reputation, thalidomide is safe to take if you're not pregnant. For Science Today, I'm Steve Tokar.