Injectable treatment that reduces the frequency of medication from daily to monthly could change the lives of millions of adults living with HIV. Another recently approved treatment advance also has the potential to improve lives around the world — but this time for babies.
Thanks to an international agreement made earlier this year, ViiV Healthcare’s dolutegravir (sold as Tivicay) will soon be available in a baby-friendly version. The medication — specifically for infants at least a month old — will be a strawberry-flavored tablet that dissolves in water or juice. The new formulation is a game-changer for babies with HIV, since most meds are bitter pills they can’t or won’t swallow or alcohol-based syrups requiring refrigeration.
The dissolving medication cannot be used for babies less than a month old, but ViiV is developing an appropriate syrup that newborns can take.
Globally, about 160,000 babies contract HIV every year. Without treatment, half will die before their second birthday and 80 percent won’t live to age 5.
“[It’s] great news that we finally have dolutegravir for children,” Jessica Burry, a pharmacist with the Doctors Without Borders access campaign, told The New York Times.
The berry tablets come on the heels of another recent option for HIV-positive babies: a strawberry-flavored granulated medication called Quadrimune. That treatment consists of four HIV drugs and is known by many as “sprinkles,” since it can be easily added to a baby’s food or mixed with milk.
Quadrimune was seen as a great advance, though it costs about $365 a year, not inexpensive for many in HIV-affected areas like sub-Saharan Africa. Thankfully, the new dissolvable strawberry-flavored tablet will sell for about one-tenth of that, or $36 annually.