NHS will offer 13,000 HIV patients new ‘incredible’ £1,600 injections only needed six times a year instead of daily pills to keep virus at bay

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  • Charity lauds ‘incredible news’ that offers alternative to daily pill
  • Many people living with HIV can keep the virus at very low levels by taking the tablet.
  • They keep the number of virus particles so small that it cannot be transmitted.

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Thousands of Britons living with HIV will be given the first ‘long-acting injection’ to keep the virus at bay.

NHS regulators have approved the £1,600 jab, which offers the option of taking a cocktail of drugs every day.


The charities hailed the “incredible news”, calling it “a big step forward”.

Scientific breakthroughs mean that HIV patients can keep the virus at very low levels by taking antiretroviral tablets every day.

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The drugs keep the number of virus particles in the blood — also known as the viral load — so low that it cannot be detected or transmitted between people.

But now an estimated 13,000 people will be eligible for injectable treatment in England, which will replace daily treatment with two injections every two months.

This means they can reduce the number of days they receive treatment from 365 to just six per year.

The charity has praised the ‘incredible news’ that offers an alternative for adults living with HIV who have to take daily antiretroviral drugs (file photo)

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) approved the injection last night.

These include cabotegravir, which is branded as Vocabria and made by Viv Healthcare, and rilpivirine, marketed by Janssen as Recambis.

NICE said the jabs may be offered to adults who have managed to keep their HIV viral load down through daily antiretroviral medications.

The combined cost of both injections is approximately £1,640, making them almost twice as expensive as the same daily oral tablet regimen.

NICE said clinical trial results suggest that cabotegravir with rilpivirine is as effective as the drugs in maintaining a low viral load.

NICE Deputy Chief Executive Meindart Boysen said: ‘HIV is still incurable, despite scientific advances, but the virus can be controlled with modern treatments.

‘However, for some people, taking daily multi-tablet regimens can be difficult due to drug-related side effects, toxicity and other psychosocial issues such as stigma or lifestyle changes.

‘We are therefore able to recommend cabotegravir with rilpivirine as a valuable treatment option for people who already have a good level of adherence to daily pills, but who are on an injectable regimen with less frequent dosing. may like.’

Many people living with HIV can keep the virus at very low levels by taking antiretroviral tablets every day (file photo)

Many people living with HIV can keep the virus at very low levels by taking antiretroviral tablets every day (file photo)

Why is HIV so difficult to treat?

In 1995, researchers discovered why HIV keeps coming back even after it is defeated.

The virus buries itself into the body’s secret reservoirs, which lie dormant as a ‘back-up’.

In 1996, it was discovered that anti-retroviral therapy (ART) could suppress the virus, and prevent it from multiplying again, if the drug was taken religiously.

But once that blanket is removed, the virus rapidly rebuilds itself.

Despite decades of effort, experts still don’t know how to access those hidden parts of the virus.

The most promising approach may well be a ‘shock and kill’ technique – waking the virus from its hiding place and then detonating it.

But researchers don’t yet know how to wake it up without harming the patient.

Some of the HIV-infected patients who also had cancer remain in remission for long periods after a risky stem cell transplant.

So-called ‘Berlin patient’ Timothy Ray Brown was the first to undergo a life-threatening procedure 13 years ago, which gave him a bone marrow transplant. A donor with an HIV-resistant gene that wiped out her cancer and the virus in one fell swoop.


Deborah Waterhouse, chief executive of Viiv Healthcare, told BBC Radio 4 that the new injections would particularly help people living with HIV and those trying to keep their diagnosis private.

“Science has come a long way but the stigma associated with HIV is not really there,” he said.

Ms Waterhouse added another benefit to the injections that it was easier for people to maintain their medication, rather than taking daily pills.

“There’s a lot of concern about adherence, you have to take your medication at the same time every day, and many people struggle 365 days a year,” she said.

‘We’re moving from injecting 365 pills six times a year.’

The injections will be prescribed to HIV patients who are already actively suppressing the virus and are expected to be available in early 2022.

Commenting on the news, Debbie Laycock, Head of Policy at the Terence Higgins Trust, said: ‘It is incredible news for people living with HIV in England and Wales to have the first long-lasting injection treatment on the NHS. will be able to use. Additional treatment options.

‘We have incredibly effective treatment which means that HIV is now a manageable virus, however, it is lifelong so it is important that taking treatment is as easy as possible.

‘HIV unfortunately remains a stigmatized condition. While we’re working hard to tackle the stigma surrounding HIV, this new injectable treatment option could help people in the home, for example who don’t want to share their HIV status and no longer have to hide their medication. Won’t have to worry.

‘Pill fatigue is also an issue for some people living with HIV who struggle with the idea of ​​taking antiretroviral drugs every day.

‘For people who have difficulty swallowing medicine, long-lasting injectable treatment is also a better option. Therefore, the Institute’s acceptance provides a welcome additional treatment option for people living with HIV throughout England and Wales.

‘This is a big step as we work towards eliminating new cases of HIV by 2030. The institute’s decision brings great potential for HIV prevention, including long-lasting PrEP in the future.

Deborah Gould, Chief Executive Officer of…


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