A new combination of HIV drugs could spell an end to daily treatment for the virus, experts have revealed.
The long-acting, drugs administered via injection once every eight weeks, has been found to perform as well as three pills taken daily, in suppressing the virus.
The results from the preliminary trial backed by Johnson & Johnson and GlaxoSmithKline have proved promising, experts said.
Paul Stoffels, J&J’s head of pharmaceuticals, said the finding offers a potentially ‘transformational’ way to fight the Aids-causing virus.
‘Despite great progress in HIV treatments, the burden of treating HIV patients remains high,’ he said.
‘Long-acting injectable drug formulations may offer another option for HIV maintenance therapy.
‘Our hope in studying such combinations is to make HIV infection manageable with a potentially transformational all injectable regimen.’
Patients getting injections every month had viral suppression of 94 per cent after 32 weeks.
Meanwhile, the suppression rate was 95 per cent for those receiving treatment every eight weeks.
By comparison, patients on tablets had a suppression rate of 91 per cent.
Mr Stoffels said if these results seen in this preliminary trial are replicated in larger final-stage clinical trials, he believes the new combination could be on the market by 2020.
The mix includes two drugs, J&J’s rilpivirine and cabotegravir, from GASK’s HIV unit ViiV Healthcare.
John Pottage, chief scientific officer and medical officer at ViiV, said: ‘ViiV Healthcare is committed to identifying new therapeutic options for physicians and people living with HIV.
‘These initial phase IIb data investigating long-acting cabotegravir and rilpivirine are promising and build on the results we have seen to date.
‘We look forward to seeing further results as we move into phase III.’
If successfully developed and approved by regulatory authorities, the new drugs could offer people living with HIV who are virologically suppressed, an option to switch from a standard daily regime of three oral drugs, to the long-acting injections.
It is hoped the injections, administered together, will be able to achieve suppression of the virus with just six or 12 injections needed each year.
Since the beginning of the HIV epidemic, almost 75 million people have been infected with the HIV virus.
It is estimated that 35 million people are currently living with HIV globally, with 2.5 million people becoming newly infected each year.
Standard three-drug oral therapy contains three active components taken daily: a backbone of two NRTIs, plus either a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor, protease inhibitor (PI) or integrase inhibitor (INI).
GSK has a majority stake in ViiV, alongside minority holders Pfizer and Shionogi.
A late-stage study of a second combination, J&J’s rilpivirine and ViiV’s dolutegravir, has already begun. The companies are planning to develop other combinations.