GlaxoSmithKline Is Working on a Much Simpler HIV Treatment

August 29, 2016, 11:35 PM UTC
Key Speakers At The World Economic Forum (WEF) 2016
Andrew Witty, chief executive officer of GlaxoSmithKline Plc, poses for a photograph following a Bloomberg Television interview in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016. World leaders, influential executives, bankers and policy makers attend the 46th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos from Jan. 20 - 23. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Simon Dawson — Bloomberg via Getty Images

The prognosis for HIV/AIDS has made remarkable progress over the last two decades, transforming from a death sentence to a largely manageable condition.

But GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) hopes to take it a step further by lopping off one-third of the drugs most patients are required to take. GSK CEO Andrew Witty says that the firm is aiming to get the three-drug cocktail regimen to down to just two different drugs, according to the Wall Street Journal. If the company is successful, it could potentially open the door to cheaper treatments with fewer side effects down the line.

The two-drug therapy would include GSK’s dolutegravir (sold under the branded name Tivicay) and another, older HIV medication—possibly a generic drug called 3TC or Johnson & Johnson’s (JNJ) rilpivirine, both of which are in combination trials with Tivicay.

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Tivicay is already approved in the U.S. as part of a traditional triple cocktail, and is one of GSK’s major HIV hopefuls. The firm’s HIV/AIDS drug unit, ViiV Healthcare (a combined partnership with Pfizer (PFE) and Japan’s Shionogi in which GSK is the majority stakeholder), recently struck a landmark deal in Botswana to provide the drug to as many people as possible in the African nation. It’s part of a country-wide campaign to drum up the rate of HIV testing and treatment.

That arrangement was but one of the factors that earned GSK the top spot on Fortune‘s Change the World list this year.


GSK still faces major competition from biotechs like Gilead, which has had a slew of new HIV treatments approved in the past year. This is to say it has its work cut out.

But if the two-therapy trials prove successful, it could be a game-changer. GSK thinks it might even set the stage for a potential single-drug HIV treatment regimen that the virus doesn’t become resistant to in time, according to the Journal.

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