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Glaxo’s ViiV Joins J&J’s Janssen to Develop Single-Pill HIV Drug

GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Johnson & Johnson will develop a new HIV medicine that combines two drugs to take on industry leader Gilead Sciences Inc.

Glaxo’s majority-owned ViiV Healthcare venture is collaborating with Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen unit to test a pill combining ViiV’s Tivicay with Janssen’s Edurant, ViiV said today in a statement. Trials are expected to begin next year, the Brentford, U.K.-based company said.

Drugmakers are refining and simplifying treatments that combine HIV drugs to reduce side effects. If the trials are successful, the new therapy could offer a less toxic alternative to the traditional cocktail of medicines used to hold the infection at bay. Patients who start on the standard three-drug combination therapy could later switch to the new treatment.

“New options that advance current therapies are increasingly important as patients and clinicians consider HIV care over the long term,” said John Pottage, ViiV’s chief medical officer, in the statement.

The new pill would help ViiV challenge Foster City, California-based Gilead’s top-selling Atripla, which combines three drugs in one and is the world’s best-selling AIDS medicine. Atripla generated $3.6 billion in 2013 sales, Gilead has reported. Atripla can cause kidney and liver damage.

The new drug is ViiV’s first attempt to find an external combination for Tivicay, also known as dolutegravir, which was approved for sale in the U.S. last year by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The treatment, which was developed with Osaka, Japan-based Shionogi & Co., needs to be taken with other HIV medications.

ViiV is a venture that was founded in 2009 by Glaxo and New York-based Pfizer Inc. to focus on HIV medications. Shionogi took a stake in 2012.

About 35 million people worldwide were living with HIV in 2012, according to the World Health Organization.

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