Researchers develop new HIV drug that ends daily medication

11 January 2018

Researchers have developed a capsule capable of delivering a week's worth of HIV drugs in a single dose, an advance which could make it much easier for patients to follow their dosing schedule.

Patients need to take it once a week and the drug will release gradually over the week. With this type of delivery system patients will not only be able to improve adherence to their treatment schedule, but is will also be used by people at risk of HIV exposure to help prevent them from becoming infected, according to the researchers.

"One of the main barriers to treating and preventing HIV is adherence," said Giovanni Traverso, a research affiliate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, IANS reported.

"The ability to make doses less frequent stands to improve adherence and make a significant impact at the patient level."

The new drug has been detailed in the journal Nature Communications. The drug has a star structure, with six arms filled with a different drug-loaded polymer. This makes it easier to design a capsule that releases drugs at different rates.

"In a way, it's like putting a pillbox in a capsule. Now you have chambers for every day of the week on a single capsule," Traverso said.

The structure unfolds when the pill reaches the stomach and its coating starts to dissolve. It measures 1.5 inches (4 cm), but the benefits  outweigh the discomfort and although the new drug shows promise when tested on pigs, human testing could start within a couple of years, the researchers affirmed.

This new development would go a long way in tackling the inconvenience of taking antiretroviral medications (ART) daily, a situation that makes some people living with HIV, not able to adhere to their medication. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that people living with HIV should take ART drugs, which will not cure the infection, but may allow the person stay healthy for a long time. The treatment can also help stop spread of the infection to other people.

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