New Drug Capsule May Allow Weekly HIV Treatment


Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Summary: Researchers have developed a capsule that can deliver a week’s worth of HIV drugs in a single dose. This advance could make it much easier for patients to adhere to the strict schedule of dosing required for the drug cocktails used to fight the virus.


Although after the introduction of antiretroviral therapies in the 1990s, the overall mortality rate of HIV has dropped significantly, there were 2.1 million new HIV infections and 1.2 million HIV-related deaths in 2015. Several large clinical trials have had mixed success, and one major obstacle to preventative treatment is the difficulty in getting people to take the necessary pills every day. The MIT/Brigham and Women’s Hospital team believed that a drug delivery capsule they developed in 2016 might help to address this problem. They have developed a new version of a capsule that can deliver a week’s worth of HIV drugs in a single dose. This advance could make it much easier for patients to adhere to the strict schedule of dosing required for the drug cocktails used to fight the virus. The study findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.

HIV causes AIDS

Human T cell (blue) is under attack by HIV (yellow). Credit: NIH

Their drug delivery capsule consists of a star-shaped structure with 6 arms that can be loaded with drugs, folded inward, and encased in a smooth coating. After the capsule is swallowed, the arms unfold and gradually release their cargo. The six arms can be filled with a different drug-loaded polymer which makes it easier to design a capsule that releases drugs at different rates. In a way, it’s like putting a pillbox in a capsule. Now you have chambers for every day of the week on a single capsule. Tests in pigs showed that the capsules were able to successfully lodge in the stomach and release three different HIV drugs over one week. The capsules are designed so that after all of the drug is released, the capsules disintegrate into smaller components that can pass through the digestive tract. The team is now working on adapting this technology to other diseases that could benefit from weekly drug dosing.

Lead author, Ameya R. Kirtane said, “To put other drugs onto the system is significantly easier because the core system remains the same”, “All we need to do is change how slowly or how quickly it will be released.”


More Information: Ameya R. Kirtane et al, “Development of an oral once-weekly drug delivery system for HIV antiretroviral therapy”, Nature Communications (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-02294-6


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