Researchers develop a pill for HIV that would only need to be taken once weekly

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HIV therapy involves a combination of drugs that must be taken once or twice daily, making treatment adherence challenging for many. But researchers may have found a solution to this problem, in the form of a pill that only needs to be taken once per week.

Co-lead study author Robert Langer, the David H. Koch Institute Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his colleagues believe that their “pillbox in a capsule” could combat the current problem of adherence to antiretroviral therapy; research has indicated that up to 30 percent of people with HIV fail to stick to their treatment regimen.

Langer and his colleagues recently reported the details of their new creation in the journal Nature Communications.
In 2016, there were around 36.7 million people across the globe living with HIV or AIDS.
Just 30 years ago, HIV was considered by many as a death sentence. Today, the virus can be successfully managed with antiretroviral drugs, which work by reducing the level of HIV in the body.

A combination of different antiretroviral drugs must be taken every day in order for treatment to be successful, but patients can find it hard to stick to such a regimen.
Pill effective in pigs
To test whether the newly designed capsule could be effective against HIV, the researchers loaded it with three different antiretroviral drugs — dolutegravir, rilpivirine, and cabotegravir — that are currently used to both prevent and treat HIV.

On testing the drug-loaded capsule on pigs, the researchers found that the capsule successfully settled in the animals’ stomachs, and they gradually released each of the three drugs over a 1-week period.
Of course, the capsule needs to be tested in humans before it can be used for the prevention and treatment of HIV, but the researchers believe that their study results show promise.

Commenting on the findings, Anthony Fauci — director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease— says, “A longer-acting, less invasive oral formulation could be one important part of our future arsenal to stop the HIV/AIDS pandemic.”

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