HIV is far more manageable now than it was decades ago, and a new drug capsule could allow for once-a-week treatment rather than daily.
For HIV patients, taking the necessary medicine on time, day after day can be a life-and-death matter. HIV/ AIDS no longer pose a death sentence like they did up until the mid-90s, but one's life expectancy greatly depends on the treatment and how strictly it is respected.
Sticking To The HIV Treatment
Even with such high stakes, however, some still find it difficult to strictly respect the antiretroviral therapy and take the medicine when they should, no exceptions. For these cases, the new drug capsule for HIV treatment could be a real game-changer.
Despite medical advances and developments that make it easier to manage and prevent the virus from wreaking havoc, 2.1 million people contracted HIV in 2015, and 1.2 million deaths related to HIV occurred the same year. Researchers highlight that these figures "underscore the need to bridge the disconnect between availability of effective antiretrovirals and efficient disease control."
"Lack of medication adherence to ART has emerged as a key barrier to successful HIV treatment and prevention," the study further points out.
On average, the adherence rate to long-term ART is roughly 70 percent, which affects the success of the treatment. If ART treatment would not require daily discipline, maybe the adherence rates would be higher, in turn increasing the success of the whole treatment.
Once-a-Week HIV Treatment
A slow-release tablet could relieve HIV patients from having to take their medication every single day. Successful tests in pigs indicated that the capsule works even if taken once a week, but more tests are necessary.
The star-shaped structure of this capsule is designed to stay in the stomach for a week and release the drugs gradually. The structure unfolds once the pill reaches the stomach and its coating starts to dissolve. It's quite big, measuring 1.5 inches (4 cm), but the benefits should outweigh the discomfort.
Before moving up to human trials, the promising HIV drug capsule should go through more tests in other mammals, including monkeys. For now, the pill shows great promise in changing how HIV treatments are delivered, allowing for weekly medicine instead of daily. However, it still has a long way to go before being ready to hit the market.
Nevertheless, it's an enticing prospect and researchers say that human testing could start within a couple of years.