The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a long-acting once a month injection that can replace the daily pills now used to control HIV infection.
This is the first FDA-approved injectable, complete regimen for HIV-infected adults that is administered once a month.
Medical researchers expect the two-shot combo called Cabenuva will make it easier for HIV+ people to stay on schedule with their HIV medications.
Cabenuva consists of two drugs packaged together – rilpivirine and cabotegravir – but given as separate shots once a month. Cabenuva is administered as two intramuscular injections in the buttocks by a healthcare professional.
The drug makers are also testing the effectiveness of taking the injection every 8 weeks.
The FDA approved Cabenuva for use in adults who have had their disease well controlled by conventional HIV medicines and who have not exhibited signs of viral resistance to the two drugs in Cabenuva.
The FDA also approved Vocabria (a tablet form of cabotegravir), which should be taken in combination with oral rilpivirine for one month prior to starting treatment with Cabenuva to ensure the medications are well-tolerated before switching to the extended-release injectable formulation.
Dr. Steven Deeks, an HIV specialist at the University of California, told ABC News that a once-a-month treatment “will enhance quality of life” for those on HIV medications. “People don’t want those daily reminders that they’re HIV infected.”
Deeks also believes a monthly dose may be easier for some who have a difficult time staying on a daily schedule like those with mental illness or substance abuse issues.
In addition to treating those living with HIV, ViiV Healthcare (the maker of cabotegravir) hopes to make their drug available as PrEP for HIV prevention.
Two studies have shown an injection of cabotegravir every two months was more effective than taking Truvada on a daily basis.