Scientists in the US have developed a drug capsule that is swallowed once and then can slowly release the daily doses of a week of “cocktail” of medicines that patients get for HIV.
The new star-shaped polymer capsule, which can remain in the stomach for up to two weeks, is designed so that patients only need to take once a week, as the drugs it contain are released slowly over this time. Initially tested for malaria treatment, it has now been adapted to treat HIV.
Replacing daily pills with a weekly treatment will help patients follow the doctors’ instructions. Studies have shown that only 30% of patients are normally given their doses. Also, the capsule can be used by people at risk of exposure to HIV, reducing the risk of their infection.
Researchers at the MIT and Harvard universities, as well as the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, led by Professor Robert Langer and assistant professor Giovanni Traverso, published the publication in Nature Communications.
The pig tests have shown that within a week the capsule can successfully release into the stomach three different drugs for HIV (dolutegravir, rilpivirine and cabotegravir). After complete drug release, the capsule decomposes into smaller portions that pass through the digestive tract.
Although HIV mortality has declined significantly since the introduction of antiretroviral therapies in the 1990s and people with the virus have almost regular life, there are still some 2.1 million new infections each year 1.2 million deaths.
“One of the main obstacles to HIV treatment and prevention is to maintain medication. The possibility of the doses becoming more sparse, will improve the effectiveness of the treatment and will have a very positive effect on the patients, “Traverso said.
Researchers have estimated that changing treatment from daily to weekly can improve its effectiveness by up to 20%. This can be translated into 200,000 to 800,000 fewer new infections over the next 20 years, only in South Africa.
Several major clinical trials have already assessed whether antiretroviral drugs can prevent HIV infection in healthy populations. These trials were moderate, as a serious problem for preventive treatment was found to be the difficulty for people to take the necessary pills every day.
Lyndra, created to develop the new pharmaceutical technology, is already working on a clinical trial of the capsule. It also seeks to prolong the useful life in the body of the capsule so that it can be used for other diseases.