A new capsule that
delivers pills for a whole week in a single dose could be an enormous advantage
for HIV patients who follow a strict dosage.
- New capsule delivers HIV pills for
an entire week in a single dose making it easier for patients to adhere to
their strict dosing regimen.
- The capsule releases the drug at a
gradual rate throughout the week thus helping patients avoid daily pills.
- It can also be used by people at
risk of HIV exposure to help prevent them from becoming infected.
Research teams at
MIT and Brigham and Women's Hospital at Boston who developed the delivery
believe it would help patients adhere to the strict dosing schedule required
for drug cocktails used to fight the HIV virus. By releasing the
drugs in a slow and controlled manner throughout the week, the drug helps
patients avoid daily pills.
The findings of the study are published in Nature Communications.
While the introduction
of antiretroviral therapies in the 1990s made significant contributions to
decreasing the mortality rate of HIV, there were 2.1 million new HIV infections
and 1.2 million HIV-related deaths in 2015. The numbers
are significantly large and many of these HIV patients rely on a handful of
drugs to treat HIV infections. There have been several clinical trials testing
the efficacy of antiretroviral drugs but with mixed results. The one major obstacle to preventive treatment is the difficulty in
getting people to take the necessary pills every day.
Adherence to the HIV treatment
"One of the
main barriers to treating and preventing HIV is adherence," says Giovanni
Traverso, a research affiliate at MIT's Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer
Research and a gastroenterologist and biomedical engineer at Brigham and
‘Switching from a daily dose of pills to a weekly dose improves the efficacy of HIV treatment by approximately 20 percent by making patients more compliant to taking the medication.’
The study suggests
that the less frequent usage of pills will allow patients to adhere to the
treatment. The capsule can also be used by people at risk of HIV exposure to
help prevent them from becoming infected.
The drug delivery
system can not only be used for delivery of HIV medications but also can be
used for several other diseases.
The capsule was
developed in 2016 by research teams at MIT and BWH. It consists of a
star-shaped structure with six arms and encased in a smooth coating. The
drugs are arranged in such a way that they fold inward. After the capsule is
swallowed, the arms unfold and gradually release the loaded drugs.
When the drug was tested in pigs, it showed that the capsules were able
to successfully lodge in the stomach and release three different HIV
drugs over one week.
The drug design allows the capsule to
disintegrate and pass through the digestive tract once all the drugs are
"In a way,
it's like putting a pillbox in a capsule. Now you have chambers for every day
of the week on a single capsule," Traverso says.
studies on the drug delivery system to deliver the anti-malarial
ivermectin showed that this capsule could remain in the stomach
for up to two weeks, gradually releasing the drug.
is also looking at ways to make the capsule last for longer periods of time
within the body, further reducing the frequency at which drugs need to be
- Ameya R. Kirtane, Omar Abouzid, Daniel Minahan, Taylor Bensel, et all. "Development of an oral once-weekly drug delivery system for HIV antiretroviral therapy." Nature Communications, 2018; 9 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-02294-6