Monthly ARV injections…coming soon…maybe?

One of the toughest things about taking daily medications is actually remembering to take them!  Studies have consistently shown that many people frequently forget to take their meds, and that’s a big problem, particularly for people with HIV who need to take ARVs regularly and on time.

Viiv Healthcare has just announced the completion of two clinical trials involving more than 10 000 people for a monthly injectable antiretroviral medication, which they say works just as well as the standard course of daily, pill-based treatment for people with HIV.

According to the company, which presented the findings at an HIV health care conference in the US last month, the injection involves a combination of two drugs: cabotegravir, a new drug that is currently undergoing trials, and rilpivirine, an antiviral that was developed by the pharmaceutical company Janssen. The treatment would essentially allow people to receive injections of antiretroviral medication once a month, as opposed to taking a combination of drugs on a daily basis. The researchers behind the trials claim that the patients who received the injectable treatment overwhelmingly preferred it to the standard pill-based course of treatment.

While ART has proven to be effective at slowing the progression of the virus, it’s often cumbersome for people to remember to regularly take the pills, and it can be difficult for some people to travel to clinics to obtain medication. The drugs can also yield unpleasant side effects when combined with other medications, which would be reduced in the monthly injectable medication, Viiv Healthcare said.

That’s why those involved with the clinical trials believe this could be a game-changer. One of the researchers said “This long-acting, injectable two-drug regimen may provide an opportunity to change the paradigm for people living with HIV by breaking the cycle of a daily pill, which has been a defining characteristic of HIV therapy for several decades”

Even if these injectables win regulatory approval, many practical questions remain about their cost, the impact of missing shots, inflammation at injection sites, and the burden on health care systems of providing monthly intramuscular injections. n

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