Hope for people living with multi-drug resistant HIV

31 October 2016

Phase III trials of the intravenous drug ibalizumab have been found to significantly reduce viral load in people living with HIV who do not respond to existing treatment.

HIV and cell

People living with multi-drug resistant HIV have been given a new lifeline in treatment options, after phase III trials of the intravenous drug ibalizumab were found to significant improve viral load outcomes. New research was presented at the annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDWeek), held from 26 to 30 October in New Orleans, USA.

A total of 40 patients living with drug-resistant HIV were given the long-acting injectable, administered once every two weeks. Seven days after the first injection, 83% of patients had significantly improved outcomes – compared to just 3% in the control group. 60% of this group were able to reduce the level of virus in their blood by 90%.

The study participants had been infected with HIV for 21 years on average and had, for one reason or another, either failed their treatment regime or were not on treatment (because of treatment failure). Ibalizumab is currently the only treatment option in the pipeline for people with multi-drug resistant HIV.

“These are sick, vulnerable, desperate patients […] They're in a bind, and this is potentially a lifesaving therapy," said study author Dr. Jacob Lalezari, an assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

HIV drug resistance can happen when there are breaks in treatment, giving the virus the opportunity to mutate and become resistant to antiretroviral therapy. Drug resistant strains can also be transmitted. Around 1.2 million Americans – where the study took place – are living with HIV, and an estimated 10,000 of these people are living with multi-drug resistant HIV.

"These results are particularly exciting as ibalizumab, if approved by the FDA, would be the first long-acting biologic to show such efficacy in patients with highly resistant HIV-1," said Dr. Lalezari.

"The study suggests that when combined with other agents, ibalizumab could help these patients in dire need of new treatments options, and could change the way multi-drug resistant HIV is managed in the future."

Photo credit:
C. Goldsmith Content Providers: CDC/ C

Written by Caitlin Mahon

Content Specialist - HIV & Sexual Health