Why HIV control injection could scrap the need for daily drugs, research finds

HIV patients taking daily routine of medications may soon be able to shift to a monthly injection following effective trials.

A medical trial published in the Lancet exposed a long-acting injectable antiretroviral therapy (ART). It must be given every four or eight weeks and may be just as effective as the daily oral pills which are used to keep the virus under control.

The present treatment for individuals with HIV comprises a lifetime, daily schedule of medication. Continuing the severe regimen is difficult for some people. And low submission can cause a rise in drug-resistant mutations and treatment failure. The writers of the study hope the lifelong ART could revolutionize this treatment.

“Adherence to treatment is an important task in HIV treatment. A new injectable ART could offer patients with a more useful approach to manage HIV contagion. It avoids daily oral dosing, and the need to store and transport medicines as they go about their regular lives,” Dr. David Margolis, an author of the research, said in a press release.

How the trial was conducted

The experiment took place at 50 locations in the United States, Germany, Spain, Canada, and France. During the research, 309 participants were first put on daily oral medicine for 20 weeks. After participants had attained viral suppression, some of them were given the injectable ART as a maintenance therapy either every four weeks or every eight weeks for a 96-week period.

After the trial, viral suppression was retained in 94 percent of participants who were given the injectable ART every eight weeks. But 87 percent in the four-week group.  Those who were given oral treatment throughout the 96-week period, 84 percent retained viral suppression. Scientists say the outcomes are favorable and more experiments will take place.

“The single-tablet treatment was a leap forward in ART dosing, and the introduction of long-acting antiretroviral injections may symbolize the next revolution in HIV therapy which avoids the burden of daily medication. The outcomes through to 96 weeks with this two-drug treatment are positive. And now we need further study to confirm these discoveries,” Margolis said.

HIV treatment has evolved

The virus gradually harms the cells in the immune system wearying the ability of a body to fight infections. This latest research is another advancement in a long evolution of treatment options.

“The evolution in HIV treatment since the virus discovery has seen the development of single agents to the development of single tablets which could be taken once daily. The development of injectables which might be administered after every four or eight weeks, or maybe even longer with advanced developments.

It represents a progress in treatment that makes antiretroviral therapy more appropriate and therefore more likely,” Rowena Johnston, Ph.D., vice president, and director of the study at the Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), told.

“As we know that adherence to pill taking is difficult for some people,” Mitchell Warren, executive director of the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC), said.

“Therefore, simplified regimens like once-daily tablets, and potentially this periodic injection, can help people stick to their treatment better. It means better health for them, and when the HIV becomes undetectable in their system they cannot pass on HIV to their sexual partners,” he added.

The importance of adherence

Low adherence to HIV medicine can have severe concerns. It can make someone with HIV more susceptible to many other infections. It can also allow the virus in their system to transform and become resistant to the prescribed drugs.

A long-term injectable antiretroviral therapy may aid in improving compliance for some persons. But currently, Warren points out that healthy people living with HIV may acquire two to six months of their treatment from a pharmacy at one time. As such, a monthly or two monthly injections may require more visits to a healthcare provider than any kind of oral medication would. Still, he says, having more options is an encouraging step forward.

“Any treatment schedule, whether a daily pill or an injection every two months, has an adherence constituent. A periodic injection therapy will work well for some people and not for others. The main thing is that we need more alternatives that meet the needs of more people,” he said.

Areeba Hussain

Areeba is an independent medical and healthcare writer. For the last three years, she is writing for Tophealthjournal. Her prime areas of interest are diseases, medicine, treatments, and alternative therapies. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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