Swiss giant, Roche, says that it will be voluntarily pulling its anti-HIV drug, Fortovase (saquinavir), from the market early next year, saying that demand for the product has declined significantly.

In a statement, the company said that the decision to withdraw Fortovase had not come as a result of safety or efficacy issues, but notes that its newer HIV offering, Invirase (saquinavir mesylate), has become the preferred formulation of saquinavir. Invirase offers a number of key advantages over Fortovase, including a reduced pill burden and it is also easier to tolerate, the firm added.

Roche explained that Invirase would remain on the market, but Fortovase would be discontinued during the first quarter of 2006. “The Fortovase formulation no longer meets the demands of convenience and tolerability expected by patients today… we have determined that it is time to focus our resources on the availability of Invirase, which offers significant improvements in convenience and [gastrointestinal] tolerance,” said Frederick Schmid, vice president of virology/HIV at Roche.