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Can a Monthly Injection Treat HIV?—Brainstorm Health

July 8, 2019, 9:49 PM UTC

Happy Monday, readers! I hope you took some time lay back and relax over the 4th of July weekend. Let’s get back into the swing of things.

Despite a failure to create a true “cure,” the scientific advances in the fight on HIV/AIDS over the past 20 years have been nothing short of remarkable. What was once a death sentence has now – for those who can access and afford the medicines, anyways – become a largely manageable chronic condition.

With several successful treatments on the market, some drug makers have turned their attention to simplifying HIV therapy regimens, either by reducing the number of compounds involved in a combination (fewer drugs = fewer side effects and potentially lower costs) or creating a longer-lasting treatment. To that end, GlaxoSmithKline announced on Monday that Viiv Healthcare – a joint venture with Pfizer and Shionogi in which GSK holds a majority stake – will launch trials of a long-lasting experimental treatment for the virus among U.S. clinics. The two-drug combination would be taken once per month via injection.

While it’s a novel approach, it also raises some practical questions. Rather than take a pill once a day at home, patients would have to interact more with their health care providers in order to receive the regimen of cabotegravir and rilpivirine. That means more visits to clinics and hospitals across a whole bunch of different socioeconomic settings; the year-long study is meant to suss out the practical challenges and determine the best course of administering the drug.

Viiv hopes that the treatment will be approved by the Food and Drug Administration by early next year.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


The chicken-egg problem of new digital drug pricing tools. NPR has an interesting report on insurers' and hospitals' efforts to create digital tools that help patients know the actual out-of-pocket costs for their prescriptions. There's just a few problems - for one, the data isn't available for all patients because of the fragmented nature of U.S. health care and, relatedly, doctors are thus hesitant to use them. (Not to mention that some docs probably don't want to spend a bunch of time talking about billing during patient consultations.) (NPR)

Meet the researchers trying to keep Facebook users from feeling depressed. My colleague Danielle Abril profiles Facebook's "well-being" team - a group of researchers trying to figure out how to help Facebook users mitigate the mental health effects of being, well, Facebook users. The team's work is especially relevant given recent research finding that excess Facebook use can make people feel depressed and less satisfied with their lives. So how do their suggestions work out in practicality? For instance, changes to the Facebook algorithm that modify the kinds of posts that appear on someone's news feed. (Fortune)


The Roche Spark deal may not close until 2020. In a surprise to basically no one, drug giant Roche and gene therapy biotech Spark Therapeutics have extended the deadline for their proposed $4.3 billion M&A. Roche announced the buyout bid in March and expected to close by the end of the year; now, the deadline has been pushed back to April 30, 2020, as the companies seek more time to deal with Federal Trade Commission scrutiny and various lawsuits challenging the buyout. (Reuters)


Prescribing a... Museum visit? Here's a new one: a partnership between Médecins Francophones du Canada (MFdC) and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) seeks to prescribe museum visits for patients suffering from all kinds of disorders, including depression, anxiety, Alzheimer's, and even cardiac arrhythmia. "After handing over the prescription at the museum, patients become patrons who are free to be revitalized through art and reflection," writes Katie Sehl for Fortune. (Fortune)

A decision is coming on the lawsuit to kill the ACA. A three-judge appellate court panel is slated to hear arguments in a federal lawsuit seeking to nix the Affordable Care Act in its entirety next week. The lawsuit was launched via Texas and endorsed by a federal judge in a decision which surprised many observers; later, the Trump administration reversed course and declined to defend Obamacare in court. (The Texas Tribune)


How Automation Is Cutting Into Workers' Share of Economic Outputby Geoff Colvin

The Party's Over for 'The World's Most Dangerous Bank'by Geoffrey Smith

Amazon Warehouse Workers Plan Strike During Prime Day 2019by Chris Morris

Why It's Time for More Regulation of the Internetby Adam Lashinsky

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