( Reuters ) - Pfizer Inc, the world's largest drugmaker, said on Monday the European Commission had approved its AIDS drug Celsentri, the first in a new class of oral HIV medicines.
The drug -- which is known generically as maraviroc and as Selzentry in the United States -- is the first designed to keep the HIV virus that causes AIDS from entering healthy immune cells. Older AIDS medicines attack the virus itself.
It works by blocking the CCR5 co-receptor that serves as a main doorway for the HIV virus into immune cells.
The green light from the European authorities had been expected after a panel of EU experts recommended the product in July. The medicine was also cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last month.
Celsentri is approved for use in patients who have tried other medicines and for whom a diagnostic test has confirmed their HIV strain is linked to the CCR5 receptor.
New York-based Pfizer is counting on new medicines such as Celsentri to help drive profits as several blockbusters lose patent protection and its top-selling Lipitor cholesterol treatment faces strong competition.
Industry analysts have projected annual Celsentri sales of about $500 million by 2011.