A new blockbuster HIV drug is safe in combination with a shorter and more effective prescription to prevent deadly tuberculosis (TB), according to breaking research from South Africa.
To prevent TB, HIV patients need to take drugs for nine months – a programme many fail to complete due to the length. But a new three-month regimen has been proved safe and effective in research announced at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections taking place in Seattle this week.
HIV makes one more susceptible to TB infection and South Africa has the most serious HIV and TB co-epidemic in the world with almost two thirds of people living with HIV also suffering from TB.
The new HIV drug, called dolutegravir, is set to replace the existing first-line HIV treatment in South Africa next month.
“We’ve known for some time that preventive therapy for TB is a critical component of any effort to control the TB epidemic. But current treatment options are too long and potentially more toxic,” said Professor Gavin Churchyard, who led the study.
He said that the new preventive TB regimen, called 3HP, will allow the combined treatment of TB and HIV “to move forward” and start “offering the best treatment options to those who need it most”.
Conducted by the Aurum Institute and Johns Hopkins University, the study tracked 60 South African HIV patients on dolutegravir who were given 3HP. They found that the combination of drugs was well-tolerated which serves as the first piece of evidence that the medicines can work together without harming patients.
TB deaths ‘unacceptable’
“These are the results we’ve been waiting for. The evidence that 3HP is safe to use with dolutegravir, today’s most advanced HIV treatment and allows us to scale up short-course preventive therapy for TB, which is the leading cause of death in people living with HIV,” said Lelio Marmora, executive director of Uitaid, which funded the study.
Deputy director general at the National Department of Health Dr Yogan Pillay said: “People being successfully treated for HIV are now dying from TB in high numbers, and that’s unacceptable. These new findings will allow us to prevent many of these deaths.” – Health-e News