First long-acting injectable HIV treatment added to the PBS

injection hiv viiv healthcare cabenuva pbs
Image: Steven Cornfield/Unsplash

The first long-acting injectable treatment for HIV, Cabenuva, is now on Australia’s Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, making it more accessible to Australians living with HIV.

The drug, produced by ViiV Healthcare, is a combination of Cabotegravir and Rilpivirine and administered by injection once every two months to suppress the virus.

The federal government listed the drug on the PBS on Friday (April 1). It gives around 29,000 Australians living with HIV a new option of just six doses a year instead of oral antiretroviral therapy (ART) every day.

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) makes recommendations on which medications to subsidise on the PBS.

PBAC explained Cabenuva will benefit some Australians living with HIV in certain populations, “such as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people, those living in rural or remote settings, and individuals with complex living or social circumstances” who have issues adhering to their daily oral regimen.

“[These people] would potentially have improved quality of life from a long-acting injectable option,” PBAC said.

Cabenuva reduces burden of daily medication to treat HIV

National Association for People with HIV in Australia (NAPWHA) President Scott Harlum said accessing long-lasting injectable anti-retroviral treatments are a “welcome development” for people with HIV.

“As an additional treatment option, long-lasting injectable treatments can reduce the burden of taking daily medication and further assist people with HIV adhere to their treatment regime,” he said.

“This, in turn, helps ensure people with HIV are able to maintain an undetectable viral load which is both good for their own health, but also eliminates any risk of transmission of HIV.”

Trials have found Cabenuva is as safe and effective as daily oral treatments in suppressing HIV.

ViiV Healthcare Australia’s Medical Director Dr Fraser Drummond said Cabenuva is a first-of-its-kind regimen and represents a big shift in HIV treatment.

“Long-acting HIV treatments have the potential to reduce the fear of disclosure and the anxiety of having to remember to take a pill every day,” Dr Drummond said.

“ViiV Healthcare is dedicated to ensuring no one living with HIV is left behind.”

Last December, US regulators also approved the company’s first injectable medication for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

The injections are a new option for HIV negative people at high risk of contracting the virus, also administered every two months instead of daily.

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