The United States Food and Drug Administration has recently approved a new injectable treatment for HIV. The monthly treatment, which must be administered by a health care provider, is a marked change from the current daily pill regimen and a significant development in our nation’s fight to end the HIV epidemic.
The injectable treatment will offer important benefits to those who struggle with adherence to their daily medications. It is important the people take their required medication, as missing pills runs the risk of the virus developing resistance to medications.
However, many people cannot take the pills they need every day due to a variety of reasons, including inability to pay for the medication, privacy concerns, lack of proper storage and stigma around HIV and daily pill use in general. In making it easier for people to keep up with their medications, the newly approved treatment is an important step in ending the epidemic.
The treatment still faces barriers to widespread use. The biggest is the cost of the injection. The cost of an initial dose starts at $6,000, and the annual cost will be about $47,500 a year. However, it is expected that the price will drop as the treatment comes to market and new, long-acting HIV treatments are developed. The cost barriers to getting the injection are magnified by the fact that many people living with HIV do not have access to transportation services, a consistent health care provider or the means to cover copays for medical services.
Another barrier to widespread use is that clinical studies of the new treatment only included people who have undetectable viral loads of HIV, meaning that there is currently no data about the effects of the treatment on those who do not have a stable viral load.
Regardless of the barriers to its widespread use, the approval of a new injectable treatment represents a huge breakthrough in HIV care. We are optimistic that the treatment will bring us closer to ending the HIV epidemic in the United States.