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A Protease Inhibitor is a type of drug that cripples the enzyme Protease. An enzyme is a substance that triggers chemical reactions in the body. The Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) uses protease in the final stages of its reproduction (replication) process.
The drug is used to treat selected patients with HIV infection. Blocking protease interferes with HIV reproduction, causing it to make copies of itself that cannot infect new cells. The drug may improve symptoms and suppress the infection but does not cure it.
Protease inhibitors are considered one of the most potent medications for HIV developed so far. This class of drugs includes Indinavir (Crixivan), Ritonavir (Norvir), Nelfinavir (Viracept) and Saquinavir (Invirase or Fortovase). Several weeks or months of drug therapy may be required before the full benefits are apparent.