A team of researchers from MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have developed a capsule that can deliver a full week’s worth of HIV drugs in just one dose. This type of advance could be the key to more consistent successful treatment of the condition as a less arduous medication schedule should make it easier to follow.
According to Dr. Giovanni Traverso, a research affiliate with Massachusetts Institute of Technology Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, “One of the main barriers to treating and preventing HIV is adherence. The ability to make doses less frequent stands to improve adherence and make a significant impact at the patient level.”
As such he notes, “We can’t change the patient, but we can change the capsule. The more infrequent the dose, the more likely the patient is to take the medication.”
The original version of this drug was developed in 2016: a star-shaped capsule with six arms, each loaded with a dose of the drug. Encased in a smooth coating, these arms folded inward but would unfold to gradually release the medicine inside. The drug treatment, then, used this pill capsule to gradually release the malaria drug ivermectin over a two week period.
Also a gastroenterologist, biomedical engineer at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Traverso continues, “We wanted to come up with a system to make it easier for patients to stick to taking their treatments. Changing a medication so it only needs to be taken once a week rather than once a day should be more convenient and improve compliance. Once-a-month formulations might even be possible for some diseases.”
Of course, this drug is still in its earliest stages of development and there is still much more study and work to do before it can even bet tested on pigs. More mathematical modeling is need, too, before we can begin human trials. But the promise for HIV patients, and for other applications, are certainly hopeful.
Indeed, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease director Anthony Fauci notes, “A longer-acting, less invasive oral formulation could be one important part of our future arsenal to stop the HIV/AIDS pandemic.”