ZIMBABWE is among the first countries set to introduce a new HIV preventative drug that will be taken once a month in a move that is likely to expand HIV prevention options for citizens.
By Patricia Mashiri
The new drug, Islatravir (MK-8591) belongs to a class of drugs called First-in-Class Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Translocation Inhibitor (NRTTI) With Multiple Mechanisms of Action. These multiple mechanisms of action contribute to its high potency against HIV-1 and drug-resistant variants, and its high barrier to resistance.
Dr Nyaradzo Mgodi, Principal Investigator, University of Zimbabwe’s Clinical Trials Research Centre told this publication that the new drug would be a game changer and will go a long way in reducing the fatigue associated with taking drugs on a daily basis.
PrEP is a way for people who do not have HIV, who are considered high-risk for acquiring HIV, to prevent the infection. Currently, the only available/approved biomedical dosing option is to take a pill every day. PrEP has been shown to effectively reduce the risk of HIV infection from sex when taken daily, but is less effective if it is not taken consistently.
“Available methods have not done enough to slow the epidemic, particularly among young women. There is need for discreet products that users can control and use on their own terms. No one product will solve the HIV epidemic or be right for all users; more options increase overall uptake. Women particularly need multiple prevention options that make sense for their lives throughout the reproductive lifespan,” Dr Mgodi said.
Islatravir is currently being evaluated in clinical trials for the treatment of HIV-1 infection in combination with other antiretrovirals, as well as for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) of HIV-1 infection as a single investigational agent, across a variety of formulations. It has extraordinary persistence in the body. This means that it may only need to be given once a week as an oral tablet for HIV treatment, may only need to be given once a month as an oral tablet for HIV prevention or may only need to be replace once a year as a subcutaneous implant that releases the drug slowly for HIV treatment.
The new drug also comes hot on heels of a research which is also near completion of the Dapivirine ring which is another HIV prevention ring inserted in the vagina over a period of 28-35 days, diffusing Anti-retroviral drug in the body. This will give people a wide range of choice on which ART to use.