Johnson & Johnson and partner GlaxoSmithKline PLC subsidiary ViiV Healthcare, which specialises in anti-retroviral drugs, announced yesterday encouraging initial trial results on a drug that could revolutionise HIV treatment.
Glaxo said the results from the study showed the investigational, long-acting, injectable combination of Cabotegravir, ViiV Healthcare’s treatment, and Rilpivirine, made by Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen unit, were highly effecting in maintaining viral suppression rates.
A single injection to a patient once every eight weeks has a higher viral suppression than patients on tablets, revealed the trial result.
The results from the phase IIb of the first 32 weeks of the planned 96-week study, which combines one drug from each company, showed very encouraging results.
In the trial 309 patients tested first all had prior treatment with daily pills that reduced the HIV virus to undetectable levels in their blood. About 95 percent of those who then got the experimental injections had the bloodborne virus kept in check over the 32 weeks, versus 91 percent in a comparison group taking three pills each day. The two groups continue to receive medication and periodic testing of their blood.
More trials and research will be conducted but Paul Stoffels, ViiV’s chief scientific and medical officer, believes it could be on the market within the next five years. If the result is confirmed in larger final-stage trial, the combination could be available by 2020.
He said: “ViiV Healthcare is committed to identifying new therapeutic options for physicians and people living with HIV. These initial phase IIb data investigating long-acting cabotegravir and rilpivirine are promising and build on the results we have seen to date. We look forward to seeing further results as we move into phase III.”
There has been talk of a HIV cure or vaccine for many years, but after three decades, we are no closer to either, but this drug could revolutionise treatment of HIV.
Medication doesn’t work for everyone, side-effects can be problematic and adherence can be a struggle for many, especially newly diagnosed patients and this new drug could be the answer to these issues and have an extremely effective suppression rate.
Of course not everyone with HIV will be able to take this combination due to other medical conditions and possible side-effects, but after the success of these initial trials, the companies are already planning to develop other combinations. An injection every eight weeks instead of daily pills could mean stronger protection and a decrease in drug-resistance.
Another possible use for this could be for HIV prevention. In some countries, PrEP (a once a day pill) is currently being used by HIV negative people as protection from HIV. If an injection once every eight weeks could be administered in the same way to negative people, this could dramatically decrease the amount of new infections every year.
These initial results look promising and if the larger trials are successful, this could change the lives of millions all over the world.