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Long-Acting Drug Implant Introduces New Technology to HIV Treatment


A multi-drug implant shows a promising future in the way HIV is treated long-term, without pills. 

A new study published in Nature Communications shows promising results for a long-acting drug implant that can be used to treat HIV.

Over a seven-year period, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill tested six individual antiretroviral drugs via an injectable implant containing three elements: an organic solvent, a polymer, and the specific HIV treatment drugs.

Data showed that all six drugs were released from the implant at effective levels for “a sustained amount of time ranging from one month to a year,” reports Medical Express.

This specific implant works by first taking the shape of a “honey-like liquid,” researchers explained, that eventually turns into solid form once its implanted. From there, the solvent diffuses into the body, leaving behind the polymer and the drug(s). This combination — which varies depending on the type of injectable — determines the time period in which the drug gets released in the blood system.

Administering an injectable this way allows it to be removed quickly and prevents residual drugs from remaining in the system, which is a disadvantage that happens a lot with current long-acting drug developments. With further trials, and of course FDA-approval in the near future, this kind of technology will significantly change how HIV can be treated long-term.

"There is no FDA-approved or marketed technology for long-acting prevention of HIV, and we are the first to use this delivery method with multiple antiretroviral drugs," said Rahima Benhabbour, Ph.D., MSc, an author of the study and assistant professor in the UNC_NCSU Joint Department of Biomedical Engineering. "To have an HIV prevention treatment that consists of an injection once or twice a year would make an incredible impact for patients." She added, "This technology is not only promising for HIV, but for any kind of condition that requires a daily intake of medication. We're talking about a safe, removable, long-lasting injection that takes away the burden of adhering to a daily medication regimen."

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