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Valganciclovir is primarily used as treatment and prevention of an infection caused by cytomegalovirus (CMV) in organ transplant patients, a highly lucrative market that Roche has sought to protect by patenting the medicine. But CMV also affects people living with HIV, and if left untreated, can cause blindness and death.

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Geneva/Bangkok, December 1, 2007 – Failure to diagnose and treat cytomegalovirus retinitis (CMV) in people with AIDS is leading to unnecessary blindness, according to a paper published today in the journal PLoS Medicine. The authors found in pilot studies that CMV retinitis, which has been dramatically reduced in wealthy countries since the advent of antiretroviral therapy, occurred in 23%, 27%, and 32% of patients with advanced AIDS in Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand respectively. By training clinicians to screen and taking steps to make the best treatment affordable, the authors argue that CMV diagnosis and treatment can easily be integrated into existing AIDS treatment programs.

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