Monday, December 24, 2012

Spencer Cox died at 44 last week.

He was 24 years old in 1992. He had HIV, and was furious that drug companies were saying that it would take five to 10 years to bring new AIDS drugs to market. So he and a few others founded Treatment Action Group (TAG) to focus on accelerating treatment research.

TAG fought to have a person with AIDS (PWA) on the FDA's Anti-Viral Advisory Committee -- which oversaw approval of AIDS drugs. Cox had a degree in performance art from Bennington College; he had no training in chemistry, biology, pharmacology, or statistics. Nonetheless, he pushed ferociously for drug companies to move faster -- challenging their management techniques, their data collection techniques, and their drug trial processes.

In 1995, protease inhibitors began to show promise as an AIDS treatment. Without any training, Cox designed a human drug trial for ritonavir, a drug being developed by Abbott Laboratories. Cox's plan was controversial: No one wanted to receive a placebo, and many AIDS activists wanted to let people take the drug first and test its efficacy later. But Cox's design allowed for both speedy data gathering and an accelerated approval process.

After six months, the data showed that ritonavir HALVED the mortality rate of people with AIDS. The drug was approved on February 28, 1996. Instead of seven to 10 years, the drug was approved in one.

Cox had a lifelong addition to meth, sadly. Unable to continue his fight against drug addiction, he stopped taking his AIDS medications in August. He died of complications due to AIDS on December 18, 2012.

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Cox's death is getting no attention whatsoever. None. Yet, his actions saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

Just what are the gay community's priorities???

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