Monthly injections of long-acting medication can replace the daily pill dosage for HIV patients, according to two studies involving over 1,000 people around the world.
Daily pills can prevent the HIV virus from replicating, but the regime can be tiring to patients and some may have trouble reaching clinics to restock. The monthly injection, which contains two drugs, can be easier for patients to work into their lives.
“The combination is paradigm shifting,” Chloe Orkin, an HIV researcher at Queen Mary University of London who reported the trial findings at a Seattle conference, told Nature. “Instead of being reminded that you have HIV 365 days a year, it’s reduced to just 12.”
The injection includes cabotegravir and rilpivirine, two drugs that suppress the HIV virus in different ways. The combination, developed by London drug company ViiV Healthcare, slowly releases from the patient’s tissue throughout the month.
Two trials found that the injection is as effective as the traditional pill dosages. Moreover, in each study more than 85% of people on injections preferred the monthly needle over daily pills, says Nature.
ViiV, an offshoot of GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer, is also looking into whether the injection can prevent HIV transmission.
The breakthrough comes just days after a patient in London became the second person to be declared HIV free after a bone marrow transplant. Scientists are describing the condition as a long-term remission, but the news has given hope for a cure.