The Sunday News
Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter
HIV patients will soon heave a sigh of relief as they will no longer need to carry a lot of pills with the rolling out of a new antiretroviral drug which will be taken only once a week, Sunday News has learnt.
Scientists in the United States have conducted trials of the new ARVs that will see a patient taking one drug per week and it will contain enough medicine to last that period. This means that drug intake will be reduced from 30 to just four per month.
Director Aids and TB unit in the Ministry of Health and Child Care Dr Owen Mugurungi said the move was a step in the right direction.
“Once completed and approved we will be more than glad to embrace these new ARVs because it improves adherence to medication which has been a challenge in the country and beyond,” he said.
He said most people who defer on HIV treatment was because of pill burden which would have increased. He said some patients have the dilemma of being on ARVs, blood pressure, diabetes and tuberculosis drugs at one go, so there was a tendency to default treatment or have poor adherence.
But with just four tablets a month for HIV, he said patients could safely take the other treatments with fewer difficulties.
On the other side, Dr Mugurungi said once studies and trials for the new drug were approved then it would also translate to having its packaging reduced and storage much easier as there would be fewer drugs to store and distribute.
Dr Mugurungi said as a ministry they would want to then know what measures to take in the event that a patient develops diarrhoea or vomits after ingesting the drugs.
“We have moved from a period where a patient would take four ARVs three times a day to taking one tablet a day so it is highly possible that we can take one drug per week or even one per month. Better still if we can get to a stage where we can get an injection form of ARV,” he said.
The cost of the drugs was also mentioned as a factor to consider, Dr Mugurungi said the hope is that the drugs will come at an affordable amount for patients. Scientists undertaking the study on one drug per week said the drugs also will be administered on patients at risk of contracting HIV in the same manner.
The drug delivery capsule was developed as it might help to address this problem of adherence. The capsule consists of a star-shaped structure with six arms that can be loaded with drugs, folded inward, and encased in a smooth coating. After the capsule is swallowed, the arms unfold and gradually release their cargo. The capsule is then broken down in to smaller pieces that pass through the digestive system easily.