Glaxo J&J Combination May Control HIV With Monthly Injections

Monthly injections with HIV therapies from GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Johnson & Johnson sustained levels of the drugs in blood that should control the virus, according to a study that suggests the shots may one day provide a safer, more convenient treatment option to daily pills.

In a trial among 40 HIV-negative volunteers of Glaxo’s GSK744 and J&J’s TMC278, monthly injections sustained drug levels above a predetermined threshold considered necessary to control HIV, during the trial and for four months after the last shot, according to results presented at the International AIDS Society’s meeting in Kuala Lumpur today.

HIV, once treated with a toxic cocktail of as many as 30 tablets a day, is now subdued with a daily pill such as Gilead Sciences Inc.’s Atripla. Still, the drugs must be taken for life and can cause long-term damage to the liver, pushing drugmakers to look for even safer and less burdensome therapy. Glaxo and J&J are now testing the combination, the most advanced of its kind, in people with HIV to see whether it can keep the virus in check.

“It’s certainly something that people have great interest in,” Bill Spreen, the Glaxo scientist who’s responsible for developing GSK744, said in a telephone interview from Kuala Lumpur. “There’s going to be a sub-population of patients who select this.”

A survey of 400 HIV-infected patients found 84 percent said they would probably or definitely try monthly injectable therapy, according to a study published in the journal Nanomedicine in April.

Quarterly Shots

Quarterly shots may also be a useful way of preventing infections in people at risk of catching HIV, Spreen said. While trials have shown that uninfected people who take Gilead’s Truvada pill preemptively can reduce their chances of getting the virus, the inconvenience and side effects of taking a daily medicine can deter them from using it.

GSK744 is being developed by ViiV Healthcare, a joint venture between London-based Glaxo, New York-based Pfizer Inc. and Osaka, Japan-based Shionogi & Co. The drug is related to dolutegravir, which may win U.S. regulatory approval by August and earn Glaxo more than $1 billion in sales by 2018, according to the average of seven analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg.

People in the trial took GSK744 in tablet form once a day for two weeks, then stopped treatment for a week before receiving one of three different combinations of the injections once a month for four months. A fourth group received two injections three months apart.

J&J, based in New Brunswick, New Jersey, won U.S. approval in 2011 for an oral form of TMC278, also known as Edurant.