A study of an expensive AIDS drug described as research was really an attempt to attract AIDS sufferers who were using a cheaper, imported version of the drug, The New York Times reported Thursday.

The Fujisawa Pharmaceutical Co., of Deer Park, Ill., holds exclusive U.S. marketing rights for the drug, aerosolized pentamidine, and charges more than four times as much as does a French company that sells it overseas.The drug is widely used to prevent a deadly pneumonia that is a leading killer of AIDS sufferers.

Fujisawa acknowledged that what it called a research study was actually a marketing device and did not have federal approval, The Times said.