Drug giant declares major breakthrough on a PrEP alternative that only needs to be taken every other month

A doctor holds needles

A new HIV-preventing drug that is injected once every two months has been hailed as a major breakthrough by scientists.

Currently, people who are at risk of contracting HIV can take a daily pill called Truvada (PrEP) that stops the virus in its tracks.

But drug company GSK has revealed that it is developing an injectable prevention drug to be taken once every two months instead.

If the drug passes approval stages, it could significantly simplify prevention for those at risk of contracting the virus.

New injectable HIV-preventing drug found to be significantly more effective than PrEP.

Early tests of the drug were so successful that a trial was stopped early. It was found to be 69 per cent more effective at preventing the virus than the traditional oral PrEP.

The new preventative drug, called cabotegravir, was trialed on men who have sex with men (MSM), which includes gay and bisexual men, as well as trans women.

More than 4,600 people took part in the trial across North and South America, Africa and Asia.

An interim review from the Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) found the injection was “highly effective at preventing HIV”.

Just 50 people involved in the trial contracted the virus. Of those, 12 were on the long-acting cabotegravir injection while 38 were taking a daily pill.

The drug must now go through a number of approval stages before hitting the market.

Scientists are ‘thrilled’ with the results.

Myron S. Cohen, co-principal investigator on the study, said they developed the new injection in an effort to bring down the number of new HIV cases every year.

“To lower that number, we believe more prevention options are needed in addition to currently available oral tablets for daily use,” Cohen said.

“If approved, a new injectable agent, such as long-acting cabotegravir administered every two months, could play an important role in reducing HIV transmission and helping to end the HIV epidemic.”

Meanwhile Kimberly Smith, head of research and development at HIV company ViiV Healthcare, which is majority owned by GSK, praised the results of the trial.

“These study results demonstrate that long-acting injectable cabotegravir dosed every two months can successfully reduce HIV acquisition in at-risk MSM and transgender women,” Smith said.

“We are thrilled with the results not only because of the high efficacy of cabotegravir but also because we have demonstrated high efficacy in a study that adequately represents some of the populations most disproportionately impacted by HIV — Black MSM in the US, young MSM globally and transgender women.”