The treatment for HIV patients comes in many guises. Often, this involves a plethora of different drug cocktails; on occasion, trial-and-error combinations or simply a multitude of different pills to take during the day.
Human beings can be notorious for forgetting to take their daily dose. The more complicated the process, the less we’re inclined to follow the guidelines — or able to remember to.
So what if the treatment available became a one-time, single daily experience? Perhaps we wouldn’t forget quite so often, and perhaps it wouldn’t seem like such a chore. This, in turn, can only boost the effectiveness of the treatment plans we’re on.
For scientists in the United States, combining cocktails of drugs into one daily treatment tailored for those with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) appears to be safe and effective, according to a new study.
HIV isn’t currently possible to cure. Modern treatment methods include taking different pills at different stages of the day — and if a sufferer forgets, the treatment becomes less effective. Medical breakthroughs are not the sole way to combat illness and disease — what is known as patient compliance is also key, in order to maximize the effectiveness of drugs and procedures.
Paul Sax, clinical director at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, Massachusetts, and associate professor at Harvard Medical School, led the recent study with this in mind.
A new “quad pill” that combines four separate drugs into one daily dose was given to 700 HIV sufferers in order to ascertain whether simplifying treatment raised the level of patient compliance — and therefore improving how we tackle HIV.
The team found that the new drug was “safe and effective” although one side effect is the raised risk of kidney problems. Sax said:
“Patient adherence to medication is vital, especially for patients with HIV, where missed doses can quickly lead to the virus becoming resistant to medication.
Our results provide an additional highly potent, well-tolerated treatment option and highlight the simplicity of treatment resulting from combining several antiretrovirals in a single pill.”
The four-in-one pill is the first to include a type of drug called an integrase inhibitor, which prevents the virus from replicating. An HIV specialist at Birmingham Heartland Hospital, Dr Steve Taylor, believes these types of combination treatments are the next step in tackling HIV.
“Without a doubt the achievement of a one-a-day pill has been a big advance in tackling HIV. We’ve come a long way from people taking up to 40 pills three times a day.”
Combination drugs may increase the options available for treatment, but Taylor warns that 25 percent of those in the UK with HIV remain undiagnosed. We may not be able to control the spread effectively, but at the least, new HIV drug development may make the condition a little easier to live with.
Image credit: Alex E. Proimos