Monthly injection to treat HIV ‘as effective as daily pills’ in initial trials

syringe medication injection drug
Photo: Weyo/Adobe Stock

A monthly injection to treat HIV has been found to work just as well as daily pill regimens in two initial trials.

The results of two trials by company ViiV Healthcare were presented at an HIV research conference last week and showed the injectable antiretroviral treatment, a combination of drugs cabotegravir and rilpivirine, was just as effective as standard, three-drug oral regimens.

The company said that the initial trials also found “nearly all participants who switched to the long-acting injectable regimen preferred it over their previous treatments.”

If approved by regulators in the United States and Europe, the shots would be a new option for people with HIV and could help some better adhere to their antiretroviral treatment. The monthly injection regimen would provide convenience and privacy, but the comparable cost is unclear.

ViiV Healthcare’s Chief Scientific and Medical Officer Dr John Pottage Jr. said the research will move forward and the company would submit applications to regulatory authorities later this year.

“We now have positive results from two pivotal phase III studies demonstrating that this long-acting, once-monthly injectable regimen has similar efficacy, safety and tolerability to a daily, oral three-drug regimen for the treatment of HIV,” he said.

“If approved, this [treatment] would give people living with HIV one month between each dose of antiretroviral therapy, changing HIV treatment from 365 dosing days per year, to just 12.”

Doctors involved in the two trials, which included Australian participants, believe the monthly injection regimen has the potential to “change the paradigm” of treating people with HIV.

“This novel approach may help alleviate the burden often associated with daily, oral treatment regimens and contribute to making HIV a smaller part of peoples’ lives,” Dr Susan Swindells said.

Dr Chloe Orkin said the injectable 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.”

Researchers have confirmed the standard daily medication for HIV suppresses the virus to “undetectable” levels so it is not transmittable to sex partners, if taken daily as prescribed.

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