HIV Drug Aiming to Free Patients From Daily Doses Nears Market

(Bloomberg) -- A once-a-month shot promising to free patients from daily doses of treatment for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is expected to reach the market early next year after hitting goals in a pair of studies.

Monthly injections of two experimental drugs worked as well as a standard daily oral combination of three medicines in subduing HIV, according to a statement Thursday from ViiV Healthcare, a joint venture of companies led by GlaxoSmithKline Plc.

If the therapy is cleared, it would cut the number of days a patient needs treatment annually to just 12 from 365 and boost Glaxo’s efforts to take on rival Gilead Sciences Inc. in the $26 billion-a-year market. Glaxo and partner Pfizer Inc. are betting on two-drug combinations to simplify therapy and cut side effects seen with standard three-drug regimens.

“Fewer medicines and fewer doses is ultimately what we’re offering patients,” Kim Smith, ViiV’s head of global research, said in an interview. The company’s strategy “has ushered in what we believe is now the two-drug era,” she said.

The injection combines Johnson & Johnson’s rilpivirine with cabotegravir, which is being developed by ViiV, a joint venture of Glaxo, Pfizer and Japan’s Shionogi & Co. In one trial, about 93 percent of patients were successfully treated, with the virus suppressed, compared with almost 96 percent for the oral therapy. The other trial showed similar success rates between treatments.

While the shots would provide a new option, some patients may see them as inconvenient, according to a report from analysts at HSBC last year. ViiV said its data show that almost all participants who got the long-acting treatment preferred it over a pill.

The shot may have other advantages. For those who share living space, “hiding tablets can be very difficult and can be a deterrent to taking them,” said Chloe Orkin, a physician at Queen Mary University of London and the main investigator for one of the studies. Injections may be more discreet and help keep people on treatment, she said.

ViiV plans to apply for regulatory approval later this year. It hopes to launch the product at the start of next year, Smith said.

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