The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, NICE, has issued guidance that will result in around 13,000 people becoming eligible for a new injectable treatment for the HIV-1 virus. Currently, patients are required to pop an anti-viral pill every day in order to maintain a low viral load, where the number of virus particles in the blood is so low that detection and transmission between people is impossible.

The results of clinical trials show that the drug, a combination of cabotegravir (also called Vocabria and made by Viiv Healthcare) and rilpivirine (also called Rekambys and made by Janssen), is as effective as oral antiretrovirals at keeping the viral load low. Treatment involves both cabotegravir and rilpivirine being administered as two  separate injections every two months, after an initial lead-in period where tablets will need to be taken orally.

Meindert Boysen, deputy chief executive and director of the Centre for Health Technology Assessment at NICE, said:“Despite scientific advances HIV is still incurable, but the virus can be controlled by modern treatment. However, for some people, having to take daily multi-tablet regimens can be difficult because of drug-related side effects, toxicity, and other psychosocial issues such as stigma or changes in lifestyle. The committee heard that stigma remains an issue for people living with HIV and can have a negative impact on people’s health and relationships.

“We’re pleased therefore to be able to recommend cabotegravir with rilpivirine as a valuable treatment option for people who already have good levels of adherence to daily tablets, but who might prefer an injectable regimen with less frequent dosing.”

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