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Monthly HIV Injection Treatments Could Soon Become Available

Two clinical trials indicate that we may have a new course of treatment on the horizon

A patient getting a shot in Jackson, Miss.

A new shot could mean an alternative to the daily medication cocktail for HIV patients.

Rogelio V Solis/Shutterstock

One of the toughest things about taking daily medications is actually remembering to take the damn things. Studies have consistently shown that many people frequently forget to take their meds, and that’s a big problem, particularly if they’re living with HIV and rely on antiretroviral therapy (ART) to keep the virus in check.

That’s why the health care company Viiv Healthcare has just announced the completion of two clinical trials involving more than 1,0000 people for a monthly injectable antiretroviral medication, which they say works just as well as the standard course of daily, pill-based treatment for people with HIV.

According to the company, which presented the findings at an HIV health care conference in Seattle last month, the injection involves a combination of two drugs: cabotegravir, a new drug that is currently undergoing trials, and rilpivirine, an antiviral that was developed by the pharmaceutical company Janssen. The treatment would essentially allow people to receive injections of antiretroviral medication once a month, as opposed to taking a combination of drugs on a daily basis. The researchers behind the trials claim that the patients who received the injectable treatment overwhelmingly preferred it to the standard pill-based course of treatment.

This is great news for the estimated 1.1 million people living with HIV in the United States, many of whom have been taking standard antiretroviral medication for decades. While ART has proven to be effective at slowing the progression of the virus, it’s often cumbersome for people to remember to regularly take the pills, and it can be difficult for some people (particularly low-income people) to travel to clinics to obtain medication. The drugs can also yield unpleasant side effects when combined with other medications, which would be reduced in the monthly injectable medication, Viiv Healthcare said.

That’s why those involved with the clinical trials believe this could be a game-changer. “This long-acting, injectable two-drug 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,” Chloe Orkin, M.D., a consultant physician and clinical professor at Queen Mary University of London, said in a ViiV Healthcare press release.

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