Once-a-Week HIV Pill Now in Development

This average-looking pill could revolutionize HIV treatment worldwide.

Biotechnology company Lyndra Inc. has began the developments for a once-a-week HIV pill. The technology allows for the pill’s coating to dissolve within the stomach and for the special structure inside to unfold. With a span of 1.5 inches, this star-shaped structure is large enough to remain in the stomach but small enough to let food pass through.

The structure will last up to seven days within the digestive system, steadily releasing the drugs it carries.

Response to Poor Patient Adherance

The average adherance rate to HIV treatment worldwide is 70%. Poor adherance remains the strongest predictor of treatment failure. With the current daily pills, there is more room for missed dosages.

Giovanni Traverso, a researcher from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the US, stated that “we wanted to come up with a system to make it easier for patients to stick to taking their treatments. 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.” He also expanded on the implications of this new technology, saying that “once-a-month formulations might even be possible for some diseases. There are lots of patients this could help, including people with dementia or mental health disorders such as schizophrenia.”

Early Stages of Development

The successful tests in pigs could now lead to testings in mammals. Depending on the successes of these tests, human testings could be performed in two years’ time.

A spokeswoman from the British HIV Association said, “This research is still in the early stages of development and there is clearly some way to go from testing in pigs and mathematical modelling to human trials before its effectiveness can be assessed.”

This statement was concurred by a representative of the Terrence Higgins Trust, adding that “medical advances have come on leaps and bounds for HIV in the UK in recent years, 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.”