An experimental drug from GlaxoSmithKline Plc may one day give people a way to prevent HIV infection with an injection every three months instead of daily pills, raising the odds they’ll stick with the therapy.
Tests in monkeys showed injections of GSK1265744, being developed by London-based Glaxo’s ViiV Healthcare unit, protected the animals from a simian form of the virus. The findings were presented yesterday at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston.
Human trials for HIV prevention will probably start in the next few months, John Pottage, ViiV’s chief scientific and medical officer, said in an interview. If the trials are successful, the drug may provide an alternative to Gilead Sciences Inc.’s Truvada. Gilead’s pill lowers the chance of infection for healthy people at risk of catching HIV, an approach called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP.
“It’s elegant and beautiful in monkeys, but they’re monkeys,” said Mitchell Warren, the executive director of AVAC, a New York-based organization that advocates for HIV prevention. “Does it replace the need for oral PrEP? No. There are people who would rather take a pill every day than go to a clinic to get an injection every month or every three months.”
Past studies have found that Truvada, which won U.S. approval in 2012, can reduce the risk of HIV as much as 94 percent for people who take the pill regularly. Other trials have found the side effects or stigma associated with using a daily AIDS pill can deter HIV-negative people from taking it, nullifying its preventive effect.
In the monkey studies, researchers injected the animals once a month with the medicine and then repeatedly exposed them to the deadly virus. All the animals remained free of the virus, while monkeys that didn’t get the injection became infected. A similar protective effect in humans can probably be shown with an 800-milligram injection once every three months, the researchers said.
ViiV, a joint venture of Glaxo, Pfizer Inc. and Shionogi & Co., is also testing GSK1265744 in combination with a drug by Johnson & Johnson as a long-lasting treatment for HIV-infected people. The drug is related to ViiV’s Tivicay, a daily pill that won U.S. approval in August as a treatment for HIV.