HIV detection test. / SUR

First HIV treatment by injection to arrive in Spain in December

The injection of two drugs every two months will allow hundreds of patients to stop taking antiretroviral pills every day

ÁLVARO SOTO

Hundreds of Spaniards infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, will be able to avail of a new treatment, the first non-oral one, as of 1 December.

It is a therapy that will be administered by intramuscular injection every two months, which will allow patients to stop taking daily pills. The drug has been developed in collaboration between two companies, ViiV Healthcare and Janssen, and will be financed by the Ministry of Health.

Spain will be the eighth European country to use this innovative long-acting therapy, which combines two drugs, cabotegravir and rilpivirine. Each of them will be administered in one injection at a different site. The treatment, using nanoparticles, allows the medication to be gradually released into the body over a period of two months.

The drug's target population is HIV patients who already have the virus suppressed. "Pills can have an impact on long-term toxicity, there are problems of adherence to treatment and in the case of not taking them, a rebound effect occurs, and there are emotional challenges in patients, for whom taking them every day reminds them of the disease or the stigma," said Eugenia Negredo, a specialist in Internal Medicine at the HIV Unit of the Germans Trias i Pujol Hospital in Badalona.

Over the last eight years, more than 650 patients from 44 hospitals throughout Spain have participated in the different phases of the drug development process, which has included seven clinical trials. The drug is recommended by Spanish and American clinical guidelines and has the approval of the European Medicines Agency, which believes that this long-acting antiretroviral "presents a significant improvement by increasing overall satisfaction with the treatment and reducing the burden associated with taking tablets on a daily basis".

"We know how it should be used and the positive effects it produces. No one who is using it wants to go back to pills afterwards. In fact, we have a waiting list," said Federico Pulido a specialist in Internal Medicine at the HIV Unit of the October 12 Hospital in Madrid.

The cost of the treatment has not been disclosed but the general manager of ViiV Healthcare Spain, Ricardo Moreno, said there is only "a small difference" with respect to the price of the traditional oral treatment.