HomeWorldFirst injectable HIV prevention drug approved by US FDA

First injectable HIV prevention drug approved by US FDA

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The Food and Drugs Administration has approved the first long-acting injectable medication for use as pre-exposure prevention, or PrEP, against HIV, the agency announced Monday

Apretude, the new drug, is an injectable given every two months as an alternative to HIV prevention pills, like Truvada and Descovy, which have been shown to reduce the risk of HIV by 99 percent when taken daily.

Two FDA trials analyzing the safety and efficacy of the novel drug found that Apretude was more likely to reduce HIV than the daily oral medications — by 69 percent for cisgender men and transgender women who have sex with men and by 90 percent for cisgender women. Apretude’s superior efficacy was apparently driven by the greater ease with which study participants adhered to the every-other-month regimen compared with taking a pill every day.

“Today’s approval adds an important tool in the effort to end the HIV epidemic by providing the first option to prevent HIV that does not involve taking a daily pill,” Dr. Debra Birnkrant, the director of antivirals division at the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a statement. “This injection, given every two months, will be critical to addressing the HIV epidemic in the U.S., including helping high-risk individuals and certain groups where adherence to daily medication has been a major challenge or not a realistic option.”

While gains have been made in PrEP use over the past several years, only 25 percent of the 1.2 million people for whom PrEP is recommended were prescribed the treatment last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC estimates that as of 2019, there were approximately 285,000 people using PrEP, the vast majority of them gay and bisexual men.

The hope is that the newly approved, long-acting injectable — made by ViiV Healthcare, which is majority owned by GlaxoSmithKline — will make adherence easier, help increase PrEP usage and drive down the national HIV rate.

“People who are vulnerable to acquiring HIV, especially those in Black and Latinx communities who are disproportionately impacted in the US, may want options beyond daily oral pills,” Deborah Waterhouse, ViiV Healthcare’s CEO, said in a statement, adding that “Apretude was studied in one of the most diverse and comprehensive HIV prevention trial programs to date, which also included some of the largest numbers of transgender women and Black men who have sex with men ever enrolled in an HIV prevention trial.”

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Men who have sex with men accounted for 66 percent of all new HIV diagnoses in the U.S. in 2019, according to the CDC. When the numbers are broken down by race, Black Americans accounted for the highest percentage, representing 42 percent of all new diagnoses that year.

In July, the federal government announced that almost all insurers must cover the two approved forms of PrEP pills, Truvada and Descovy, as well as the lab tests and clinic visits required to maintain such prescriptions — and to do so with no cost sharing. As it stands, insurers will not be required to cover all costs for the new injectable version of PrEP, which has a list price of $3,700 per dose and is slated to begin shipping to wholesalers and specialty distributors in the U.S. in early 2022.

“People who are vulnerable to acquiring HIV, especially those in Black and Latinx communities who are disproportionately impacted in the US, may want options beyond daily oral pills,” Deborah Waterhouse, ViiV Healthcare’s CEO, said in a statement, adding that “Apretude was studied in one of the most diverse and comprehensive HIV prevention trial programs to date, which also included some of the largest numbers of transgender women and Black men who have sex with men ever enrolled in an HIV prevention trial.”

Men who have sex with men accounted for 66 percent of all new HIV diagnoses in the U.S. in 2019, according to the CDC. When the numbers are broken down by race, Black Americans accounted for the highest percentage, representing 42 percent of all new diagnoses that year.

In July, the federal government announced that almost all insurers must cover the two approved forms of PrEP pills, Truvada and Descovy, as well as the lab tests and clinic visits required to maintain such prescriptions — and to do so with no cost sharing. As it stands, insurers will not be required to cover all costs for the new injectable version of PrEP, which has a list price of $3,700 per dose and is slated to begin shipping to wholesalers and specialty distributors in the U.S. in early 2022.

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