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New Drug Capsule May Allow Weekly HIV Treatment Soon. Benefits Are Greater Than Just Convenience.


Can you take a pill a day? I think most of us could if our lives depended on it, but there are some of us that are not good at taking the daily Flinstone's vitamins.

New research out of MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have developed a capsule that can deliver a week’s worth of HIV drugs in a single dose. This advance could make it much easier for patients to adhere to the strict schedule of dosing required for the drug cocktails used to fight the virus, the researchers say.

The new capsule is designed so that patients can take it just once a week, and the drug will release gradually throughout the week. This type of delivery system could not only improve patients’ adherence to their treatment schedule but also be used by people at risk of HIV exposure to help prevent them from becoming infected, the researchers say.

Have you started taking PrEP?  How are you doing with the daily doses?  Have you forgotten a day? or two?

“The ability to make doses less frequent stands to improve adherence and make a significant impact at the patient level," says Giovanni Traverso, a research affiliate at MIT’s Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and a gastroenterologist and biomedical engineer at Brigham and Women’s Hospital



Although the overall mortality rate of HIV has dropped significantly since the introduction of antiretroviral therapies in the 1990s, there were 2.1 million new HIV infections and 1.2 million HIV-related deaths in 2015.

Back to the new capsule.  One of the big concerns I have is the pill staying in the stomach for the 5 to 6 days, but the researchers state it could remain in the stomach for up to two weeks for other uses, like for malaria.

The researchers relate the new capsue to the pillbox seen on many counters.  “In a way, it’s like putting a pillbox in a capsule. Now you have chambers for every day of the week on a single capsule,” Traverso says.

Preventing infection

Working with the Institute for Disease Modeling in Bellevue, Washington, the researchers tried to predict how much impact a weekly drug could have on preventing HIV infections. They calculated that going from a daily dose to a weekly dose could improve the efficacy of HIV preventative treatment by approximately 20 percent. When this figure was incorporated into a computer model of HIV transmission in South Africa, the model showed that 200,000 to 800,000 new infections could be prevented over the next 20 years.


The MIT/BWH team is now working on adapting this technology to other diseases that could benefit from weekly drug dosing. Because of the way that the researchers designed the polymer arms of the capsule, it is fairly easy to swap different drugs in and out, they say.  For more on the research, head over to MIT.


Does taking a star-shaped pill worry you?  What about it staying in your stomach for a week?

Are you going to be considering PrEP a little more if they can make it a weekly dose?