Long-acting medicines have proved as effective as daily pills in preventing HIV from replicating, according to results from twin trials that enrolled more than 1,000 people in 16 countries.
The drugs tested, cabotegravir and rilpivirine, are given once a month as an injection. They are the first of several long-acting antiretroviral HIV medicines in development, which researchers hope will tackle one of the toughest challenges in the fight against HIV: how to ensure that people consistently take the drugs that can prevent the virus from replicating in their cells. Skipped doses put people with HIV, and their sexual partners, at risk.
Researchers say long-acting medicines could ensure that the vast majority of people who are prescribed antiretroviral drugs — the standard treatment for HIV — successfully suppress the virus, in line with goals set by the United Nations.
“The combination is paradigm shifting,” says Chloe Orkin, an HIV researcher at Queen Mary University of London, who reported the trial findings on 7 March at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle, Washington. “Instead of being reminded that you have HIV 365 days a year, it’s reduced to just 12,” she says. “That gives people a kind of freedom.”
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