October 28, 2011
Preliminary research suggests that HIV drugs could be delivered via a transdermal patch. The developers, led by Anthony Ham, director of formulations at the pharmaceutical research company ImQuest BioSciences, presented a study at the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) Annual Meeting and Exposition, which was held in Washington, D.C., from Oct. 23 through 27.
Ham and his colleagues tested the effectiveness of administering IQP-0410, an HIV drug that is currently under development, via a skin patch. They found that the patch delivered more than 96 percent of the drug over a week-long period. While the method has yet to be tested in animals and humans, this is promising news, especially for those with adherence difficulties.
Patients with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, don't need to cope with the complicated regimens of earlier years that required them to take multiple pills at different times throughout the day. Now, about 70 percent of newly treated patients in the United States take a single pill a day, while patients in other parts of the world may take one pill twice a day, said Rowena Johnston, director of research with the Foundation for AIDS Research.
"Still, the important limitation of pills, regardless of how few there are or even how minimal the side effects, is adherence," Johnston noted. Research has shown that many patients, if not most, don't take their pills all the time.
"The huge potential advantage of a patch, depending on how long it secretes the right level of drug, is the ability to maintain the right level of the drug without the fluctuations observed when adherence to pills is less than perfect," Johnston said.
A patch could also be an effective way to provide medication that prevents people from getting HIV in the first place, she said.
Moreover, compared to pills and needles, the low-cost patch could be more affordable and accessible, which could thereby drive down the ever-growing cost of current HIV treatment -- perhaps even impacting our ADAP crisis. Only time will tell.
Warren Tong is the research editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
Follow Warren on Twitter: @WarrenAtTheBody.
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