New weekly HIV pill shows promise in medical testing

Scientists began testing a new HIV drug in pigs to promising results.

Patients only need to take the pill once a week if it goes forward and doctors release it. Most patients currently take HIV medication daily.

When taken, the capsule dissolves and star-shaped structure unfolds inside the stomach. This structure eventually releases its medicine over the course of seven days. Eventually, it too dissolves and passes through the digestive system.

Most experts and doctors find promise in the drug, but caution there needs to be more testing — such as on monkeys. The researchers optimistically believe trials with people could begin in two years.

The research was published in Nature Communications. Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital funded the project.

A lot of the rallying behind medication like this stems from convenience for patients.

‘Changing a medication so it only needs to be taken once a week rather than once a day should be more convenient and improve compliance,’ said Giovanni Traverso, a researcher from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the US.

‘Medical advances have come on leaps and bounds’

A company, Lyndra, is developing the technology. They want to plan human trials within the next 12 months.

‘Medical advances have come on leaps and bounds for HIV in the UK in recent years,’ said a representative at Terrence Higgins Trust. ‘However, we do know that taking a pill each day does present practical barriers for some people living with HIV. We welcome the prospect of a treatment that removes these barriers, and presents all people living with HIV with further choice, provided that it is no less effective than current options available.’

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