There Will Soon Be a Once-Per-Week Pill for HIV Patients

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have published a study that outlining a new capsule that can release HIV drugs within a patient over the course of a week.

In addition to PrEP, a drug that helps prevent high risk groups from contracting HIV, other antiretroviral medications have made it much easier for HIV-positive patients to live healthier lives over the past few decades. There are currently over 40 drugs approved to treat HIV within six different classes, and they have significantly reduced the number of death cases due to complications from the virus.

Source: Giovanni Traverso

Problems with current HIV medications

One of the main challenges of these meds, however, is making sure patients take the medication daily without missing a dose to ensure their coverage of protection is consistent. Missing any dosages could result in the patient’s body’s rejection of the medication. According to the latest studies, 20-30% of medication prescriptions are never filled, while 50% of medications for chronic disease are not taken as prescribed.

“One of the main barriers to treating and preventing HIV is adherence,” explained Giovanni Traverso, a researcher at MIT and one of the study’s authors. “The ability to make doses less frequent stands to improve adherence and make a significant impact at the patient level.”

Now the team has developed a star-shaped pill to help take care of this problem.

How the new medication works

The six-sided capsule is taken once per week and is designed to slowly release the medication over the span of the following 7 days. After testing the medication in pigs, the team says the pill is able to withstand the stomach for a long duration of time and is safe for human use.

“Lack of adherence to once-daily therapeutics for infected individuals and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for uninfected at-risk people remain a key challenge,” said director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease Anthony Fauci.

Source: Giovanni Traverso

“New and improved tools for HIV treatment and prevention, along with wider implementation of novel and existing approaches, are needed to end the HIV pandemic as we know it. Studies such as this help us move closer to achieving this goal.”

Working with Harvard University, the team conducted a meta-analysis to understand the impact that reducing frequency of drug administration would have. After the analysis, the team determined the could be an approximate 20% increase in efficacy of PrEP if it was available in this weekly formulation as well.