Bi-annual HIV drug approved; UNAIDS calls for technology sharing
On August 22, the European Union (EU) approved an anti-HIV drug that is applied only twice a year, and that belongs to a new class of antiretroviral drugs, which provides a new option for people who have already had failures with existing treatments.
It was the European Commission, an EU body that is responsible for proposing, evaluating and applying legislation, which gave authorization for the drug, called lenacapavir, to be marketed and used in the 27 member countries of the EU, as well as in Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
A new option
Lenacapavir is the first drug of its kind, called capsid inhibitors, which acts in an area of the virus where no other type of antiretroviral has done so before. This is beneficial for people living with HIV who have developed resistance to other medications or whose infection has not responded adequately to various treatments.
It should be remembered that this drug had been emerging as a promising option for almost a year, when the first research results showed an effectiveness of 94% in controlling the infection. It is necessary to combine it with other drugs to form the so-called “antiretroviral cocktail”, since it is known that HIV treatments require 3 or even more drugs to be effective.
Added to its level of effectiveness is the practicality of being supplied only twice a year, once every six months, which would have a very positive impact on the quality of life of people with HIV, who often face obstacles in giving it continuity to your treatment when it must be taken daily.
In response to the news released by Gilead, the laboratory that manufactures lenacapavir, the executive director of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), Winnie Byanyima, considered the creation of different treatment options to be “great news” long-acting for HIV.
Having different antiretroviral drugs given every few months would allow not only more people to receive treatment, but also better options for those living with HIV who show resistance to existing drugs. This would also make it possible for people to stay longer on treatment – which currently must be taken for life – and “thus avoid many AIDS-related deaths.”
However, Byanyima noted, all this will only be possible “as long as the drugs are available to all who need them” (italics are from the UNAIDS statement).
In a clear call, the Ugandan activist and politician pointed out that “monopolies in production can never guarantee global availability and affordability”. This is why the global availability of long-acting treatments that are accessible to the majority” will require technology transfer” to enable the production of generic drugs.
Sharing is possible
The UNAIDS official stated that sharing is indeed viable for companies, citing as an example the case of ViiV, a group of companies that produces the first bimonthly injectable medication approved for the prevention of HIV infection.
This drug, called cabotegravir, was reformulated to give it a prolonged action, which facilitates its administration every two months to form a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) scheme, that is, a treatment that is highly effective in preventing a person from acquiring HIV through unprotected sexual contact.
Although long-acting cabotegravir was only approved for use in the United States in January of this year, at the end of July the agreement between ViiV and the Medicines Patent Bank was already being announced to authorize the production of the generic drug in 90 low- and middle-income countries.
“While different companies advance in the development of long-acting antiretroviral, all should now follow ViiV’s example,” Byanyima said, adding that delays in the transfer of health technology “cost lives.”
He also called for pharmaceutical companies not to wait for their new drugs to be approved in rich countries to share their technologies, but to do so from the earliest stages of research so that it can be replicated in low-income countries. “To end AIDS, we must share the technology,” he stressed.
Remember that at AHF Latin America and the Caribbean we work so that HIV services reach the largest number of people without distinction, in a professional environment and free of discrimination. If you received an HIV diagnosis and have not yet started your treatment or want to resume it, come to our offices in your country and we will help you.