Scientists have said that people with HIV could be treated with an injection, rather than taking daily pills.
At the International Aids Society conference in Paris yesterday, Joseph Eron of the University of North Carolina revealed the results of a study that made the findings, published in the Lancet. The research was funded by two companies who make HIV drugs, ViiV Healthcare and Janssen.
Approximately 36.7 million people in the world have HIV, but only slightly more than half have access to recent medication. This research could therefore open up care to a lot more people.
In the study, about 300 people with HIV underwent a trial for two years. It was found that an injection every month or two months was just as effective at preventing the virus from returning as daily pills.
Of those who had an injection of long-acting therapy every eight weeks, 94 percent successfully suppressed the virus. An injection every four months was 87 percent successful, while using standard antiretroviral therapy (ART) pills came in at 84 percent successful.
The injection consisted of two medicines, cabotegravir and rilpivirine, that were packaged into tiny nanoparticles. These could then be injected directly into muscle, giving long-lasting protection as the nanoparticles broke down and released the medicine.
Although the study was relatively small, the implications could be enormous. David Margolis of ViiV Healthcare said in a comment in the paper that this could have major implications for those who have HIV.
Long-acting injectables "might represent the next revolution in HIV therapy by providing an option that circumvents the burden of chronic daily dosing,” he wrote. A larger study is already underway to see if the results can be replicated.
In a separate comment piece discussing the research, Mark Boyd and David Cooper from the University of New South Wales say that the results “merit close attention”, although there is still work to be done.
“While injectable ART might be attractive for some or perhaps many people living with HIV, there will inevitably be a trade-off between the convenience of not having to adhere to oral therapy and the inconvenience and discomfort associated with injectable long-acting ART,” they note.