Six-a-year anti-HIV injection ‘more effective’ than daily pill

Researchers say long-acting new preventative drug is ‘game changer’ in fight against Aids

(Image credit: Georges Gobet/AFP/Getty Images)

A groundbreaking new drug injected every two months to prevent HIV is more effective than the daily pills currently used to protect again infection with the virus, researchers have announced.

In trials involving thousands of people across seven countries, long-acting injectable drug cabotegravir, developed by GlaxoSmithKline-owned ViiV Healthcare, was found to be 66% more effective than Truvada, the most commonly used daily pill, ABC News reports.

As The New York Times notes, “additional options for prevention are sorely needed”, with around 1.7 million new HIV infections recorded last year.

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But “many people are unable or unwilling to take a daily pill” to prevent infection - a strategy known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) - “particularly in low-income countries where the coronavirus pandemic is disrupting services and access to antiretroviral drugs”, says the newspaper.

The trials of the anti-HIV jab involved “4,570 cisgender men and transgender women (people who were born male but identify as a woman) who had sex with men”, says ABC News. The participants were randomly assigned to receive Truvada, cabotegravir, placebo pills, or placebo injections.

Over the course of the three-and-a-half-year study, 39 participants who had taken Truvada became HIV positive, compared with only 13 who got cabotegravir injections, according to the HIV Prevention Trials Network, a scientific collaborative that led the research.

“This is a game changer - we can really impact HIV acquisition for people at risk,” said Dr Carlos del Rio, a professor at Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta who was involved in the study.

Harvard University researcher Dr Rochelle Walensky described the findings, presented this week at the Aids 2020 Conference, as “revolutionary”.

“It’s exciting to have another pharma company in the PrEP mix,” she added. “This will create competition and ideally drives costs down.”

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