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New drug could remove need for daily HIV medication

Thursday 11th January 2018
Initial animal trials for an innovative new HIV drug have shown promise, suggesting that human HIV patients could get away with just one pill a week in future. Image: yacobchuk via iStock
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US scientists believe they have developed a new drug that could remove the need for people living with HIV to take daily medication for their condition throughout their lives.

Trials involving pigs conducted by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brigham and Women's Hospital have shown promise for the drug, which is designed to be taken in pill form just once a week.

Although it looks like any normal tablet, when the stomach acid dissolves its coating, its unique internal structure is able to unfold into a star shape, spanning approximately four centimetres.

This innovative structure is designed to steadily release medication into a patient's body over the next seven days, when another pill would need to be taken to begin the process over again.

During the trial, the drugs released into the system were the anti-retroviral medications dolutegravir, rilpivirine and cabotegravir.

Following the success of the initial trials involving pigs, tests on monkeys are now in the pipeline, but the scientists behind the drug are so confident about its potential that they believes trials involving human HIV patients could take place within the next two years.

Speaking to BBC News, a representative for HIV charity the Terrence Higgins Trust commented: "Medical advances have come on leaps and bounds for HIV in the UK in recent years, however, we do know that taking a pill each day does present practical barriers for some people living with HIV.

"We welcome the prospect of a treatment that removes these barriers and presents all people living with HIV with further choice, provided that it is no less effective than current options available."

What's more, it is not just HIV that this type of drug could be used for. In the future, there is potential for multiple drugs for a condition to be administered in this way, removing the need for patients to take tablets every day, giving them more freedom in their lives and making their illnesses less of a disability. The researchers believe that pills only needing to be taken once a month could even be possible for some diseases.

Written by James Puckle

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