Main | Thursday, April 19, 2007

Deca Disappears

Watson Pharmaceuticals has discontinued production of its AIDS-related wasting drug, the anabolic steroid nandrolone decanoate (brand name Deca-Durabolin), citing diminished availability of the medication's active ingredient. Some AIDS activists are protesting the move, claiming that Watson has discontinued Deca in order to focus on their recently acquired license to manufacture a generic version of Oxandrin, another anti-wasting drug.

In some circles, Deca-Durabolin has been long known as the "Lazarus drug", for its remarkable ability to transform nearly skeletal AIDS patients into robust, athletic-looking men. In fact, some HIV activists actually blame the drug's transformative powers for helping create the media-led misperception of HIV-infected gay men as muscular, mountain-climbing, gym bunnies, as so often depicted in HIV pharma advertising. Deca-Durabolin's HIV-related usage is "off-label", the FDA approved the drug to treat anemia. Deca is considered relatively safe, cost-effective, and is an approved ADAP medication.

Not all activists are accusing Watson of pulling a fast one, citing the company's long history of generous patient assistance programs. Tim Horn, senior writer for, says that Deca's end is the fault of activists themselves, who should have been more aggressive in getting the drug FDA-approved as an AIDS medication. Oxandrin, Deca's defacto replacement, is more expensive and unlike Deca, can cause liver damage. Activists successfully forced Deca's return to the market after its previous manufacturer discontinued it in 2002. For the sake of my friends who depend on Deca, I hope they are successful again.

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