A reformulated HIV PrEP annual implant, Islatravir, could keep people from contracting the virus for a year. This is the result of a minor, early trial conducted by Randolph Matthews, MD, Ph.D., a senior scientist at Merck.
In an interview, Matthews said it is a fascinating time for pre-exposure prophylaxis, commonly known as PrEP. The scientist noted that an implant is an option they believe would serve those who have difficulty with the daily pill. That is people who might be unable to access the drug.
Matthews pointed out that the trial is preliminary and small, involving only 36 participants. However, he hopes that many will have access to the HIV PrEP annual implant in five years if the clinical trial succeeds.
Currently, the United States Food and Drug Administration has only approved two drugs as PrEP. One is the generic tenofovir disoproxil fumarate/emtricitabine (Truvada) and the other tenofovir alafenamide/emtricitabine (Descovy). Out of the two, Truvada is the only one approved for cisgender women.
Matthews said the preceding could change with the Islatravir implant. He points out that soon, HIV prevention drugs will be more like contraceptives. There will be various options for different people at different stages of life and with individual needs.
The data presented by the scientist at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) 2021 Annual Meeting showed 16 out of the test participants were control persons. It means that they got one of the three doses of the drug or a placebo in a reformulated implant.
The placebo contained polymer and Islatravir, as well as barium for image tracking. The result showed that all the implants remained above the threshold throughout the active part of the trail. Indeed, if the results remain encouraging, Islatravir could be the future of PrEP.
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