This electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health shows a human T cell, in blue, under attack by HIV, in yellow, the virus that causes AIDS. The virus specifically targets T cells, which play a critical role in the body’s immune response against invaders like bacteria and viruses. Colors were added by the source. On Thursday, March 6, 2019, researchers reported that monthly shots of HIV drugs worked as well as daily pills to control the virus that causes AIDS in two large international tests. (Seth Pincus, Elizabeth Fischer, Austin Athman/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/NIH via AP)

Monthly shots control HIV as well as pills: studies

If approved by regulators the shots would be a new option for people with HIV

Monthly shots of HIV drugs worked as well as daily pills to control the virus that causes AIDS in two large international tests, researchers reported Thursday.

If approved by regulators in the United States and Europe, the shots would be a new option for people with HIV and could help some stay on treatment. Instead of having to remember to take pills, patients instead could get injections from a doctor or nurse each month.

READ MORE: Second man seems to be free of AIDS virus after transplant

“Some people will be thrilled” at the convenience, said Mitchell Warren, executive director of AVAC, an AIDS advocacy group.

Condoms remain the most widely available and inexpensive form of HIV prevention. Pills taken daily can keep HIV levels so low the virus is not transmittable to sex partners, but not everyone takes them as prescribed.

The shots could improve how well some people stick to treatment, perhaps helping those who have trouble remembering to take daily medicine to keep infection at bay.

There are other potential benefits. Getting shots at a clinic can lend more privacy to patients worried about the stigma of filling an HIV prescription at a pharmacy, said Dr. Susan Swindells of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, who presented results Thursday at an HIV conference in Seattle.

Cost will be an issue “to make sure that everyone has access to this medication,” said Dr. Hyman Scott of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, who was not part of the study. It’s not clear how much the shots would cost. HIV pills can cost a patient up to thousands of dollars monthly , depending on the drug combination, insurance coverage, rebates and discounts.

And there will be concerns about patients missing a monthly shot, which could lead to drug-resistant strains of the virus. It will be “a good option for some people,” Scott said.

Whether monthly shots will also work to protect users’ sex partners hasn’t been studied yet, but there is reason to think they will, said experts at the conference.

The shots are a long-acting combo of two HIV drugs — rilpivirine, sold as Edurant by Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen, and ViiV Healthcare’s experimental drug known as cabotegravir.

ViiV Healthcare paid for the research. The drugmakers are seeking approval later this year in the United States and Europe.

One study included 616 people who were taking pills to treat their HIV infection. The other study enrolled 566 people who hadn’t yet started treatment, so they first got pills to get the virus under control.

In each of the studies, half the participants switched to the shots while the rest stayed on pills. After nearly a year, 1 to 2 per cent of people in both groups had traces of virus in their blood, whether they got shots or pills. That shows the shots worked as well as the standard pill therapy. A few people withdrew from the studies because of pain after the injections.

The studies were done in Europe and North America and in nations including Argentina, Australia, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, Japan and Mexico.

“We don’t have experience rolling out an injection in the real world,” said Warren, the AIDS advocate. He said the next challenges will be how to deliver the shots and whether patients will remember to come back monthly. “These are big questions.”

Carla K. Johnson, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

RCMP
Police appeal to ‘sense of right and wrong’ in fatal Campbell River assault

RCMP know of witnesses to Oct. 15 attack; want them to come forward

B.C. Ferries has a mandatory mask policy on vessels and at terminals. (News Bulletin file photo)
UPDATE: No tickets for anti-maskers on B.C. Ferries

West Van Police say their intention was to ‘keep the peace’ after being called to terminal

Steven Michael Bacon pleaded not guilty to a charge of first-degree murder of Nanaimo teen Makayla Chang. (Photos submitted)
Accused pleads not guilty in Nanaimo teen’s 2017 murder

Steven Bacon appeared in Nanaimo court Monday via video link from Thunder Bay

B.C. NDP leader John Horgan releases his election platform, Vancouver, Oct. 6, 2020. (B.C. NDP photo)
Horgan fishes with Cowichan elders at Cowichan Valley campaign stop

B.C. premier talks mental health and addictions, universal income

The City of Victoria asked the organizer behind a mural in Bastion Square to removed the acronym A.C.A.B. from one of the letters. The mural reads, “More Justice, More Peace,” in a call for progress on racism and violence. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)
Victoria votes to remove ‘ACAB’ from Bastion Square mural

Date of removal is unknown as dialogues continue

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

(File photo)
RCMP: Two men face charges in reported Parksville fatal hit-and-run

Investigation into man’s death began in August of 2019

Passengers seated in rows five to 11 on WestJet flight 195 on Oct. 10 may have been exposed to COVID-19. (Black Press File Photo)
UPDATE: COVID-19 exposure reported on WestJet flights two days in a row

The BCCDC is cautioning people who flew from Calgary to Victoria Oct. 19 and 11

West Shore RCMP officers delivered dumped Amazon packages on Monday. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore RCMP deliver Amazon packages dumped outside mailbox

Officers take matters into their own hands ‘before mailbox pirates got to it’

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

Voting station at Tzeachten Hall in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent on the first day of advance voting in the provincial election on Oct. 15, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. VOTES 2020: 380,000 British Columbians head to polls in first 4 days of advance voting

Some of highest voter turnout so far has been seen on Vancouver Island and in Shuswap

Most Read