Health In Focus
Highlights:
  • 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.

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. 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.
Week’s Worth of HIV Drugs in a Single Dose

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 Women's Hospital.


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

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 released.

"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.

Previous studies on the drug delivery system to deliver the anti-malarial drug ivermectin showed that this capsule could remain in the stomach for up to two weeks, gradually releasing the drug.

The team 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 taken.

Reference :
  1. 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

Source: Medindia

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