People May Soon Just Take ‘Long Acting’ Implant For HIV Treatment, Prevention

HIV treatment may soon be less stressful and time-consuming. Researchers created a new drug implant that provides “ultra-long-acting” effects to prevent the disease from spreading. 

The new treatment, described in the journal Nature Communications, is an injectable implant that combines multiple drugs to eliminate the daily burden of taking taking pills as required by current HIV treatment and prevention methods. The implant has been tested in animals for seven years to see its long-term effects. 

Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill said it appeared to be a promising alternative for HIV pills. They added the study is the first to use an injectable method to deliver multiple antiretroviral drugs targeting the disease.

“To have an HIV prevention treatment that consists of an injection once or twice a year would make an incredible impact for patients,” Rahima Benhabbour, study author and assistant professor in the UNC/NCSU, said in a statement. “This technology is not only promising for HIV, but for any kind of condition that requires a daily intake of medication.”

Current methods to prevent HIV require taking different drugs consistently every day. This can be difficult for many people, especially those living in communities with poor healthcare and access to medications. 

Human error can also lead to some problems when taking multiple drugs at the same time. 

"Because one of the biggest difficulties associated with HIV prevention is lack of adherence to drug treatment, we wanted to create a drug delivery system that essentially solved this problem," J. Victor Garcia, senior study author and a professor of medicine at UNC School of Medicine, said. 

Benhabbour said their new HIV drug implant eliminates such burden and it is safe and effective for long-term use. The drug is also removable that gives an individual the option to withdraw from the treatment 

The implant contains an organic solvent, a polymer and the drugs. It initially appears as a honey-like liquid but becomes solid when injected under the skin. 

During tests with mice, the researchers said the drug implant was able to maintain the properties of all antiretroviral drugs. The drugs also maintained effective levels from one month to a year after injection. 

Researchers said the implant biodegrades into lactic and glycolic acids once it loses the drugs. But it can also be removed a week after delivery. 

The team aims to make improvements in the HIV drug implant and to test the treatment with humans before offering it to the public. 

HIV A wheelchair for HIV patients is placed in the counselling room at the HIV integrated care unit of Cipto Mangunkusumo government hospital in Jakarta on November 30, 2012 as Indonesia battles HIV/AIDS. Study predicts that the U.S. could cut HIV infections by nearly 70 percent in 2030 with the current prevention, care and treatment goals. Romeo Gacad/AFP/Getty Images