GSK's ViiV says study shows its long-acting HIV shot as effective as Gilead's daily pill
By Maggie Fick
LONDON, Feb 22 (Reuters) - British drugmaker GSK's HIV treatment division, ViiV Healthcare, published data on Wednesday showing its long-acting HIV injection is as effective as the market-leading daily pill made by Gilead Sciences Inc.
GSK's ViiV ran the so-called "head to-head" clinical study on its own injection Cabenuva, which is given every two months, and Gilead's Biktarvy, an oral pill taken daily.
Analysts and investors are paying close attention to the future of GSK's HIV business as patents for treatments containing its core HIV compound, dolutegravir, begin to expire in 2028.
Given existing HIV treatments effectively suppress the virus, the next frontier for pharma companies is introducing different mechanisms for delivering the drugs, such as injections, which some people living with HIV say they prefer to pills.
Gilead, together with rival Merck & Co Inc, launched a study in 2021 that is testing a combination of its experimental HIV drugs to develop its own long-acting injection.
GSK forecasts that sales from longer-acting HIV injections like Cabenuva will enable it to manage the loss of exclusivity from dolutegravir. It forecasts that by 2026, sales from its longer-acting medicines will generate around 2 billion pounds ($2.4 billion) in revenue, around one third of HIV sales.
The 12-month clinical study involved 670 people living with HIV who prior to the study were virally suppressed and taking Gilead's Biktarvy. Two thirds of those people were switched to the Cabenuva injection, while the others remained on Biktarvy.
The study met its primary goal of showing that Cabenuva was as effective as Biktarvy, while some 90% of the switchers said they preferred the long-acting regimen to the daily pill, ViiV said in a press release.
Reasons given included that they did not have to remember to take a pill every day and did not have to be reminded of their HIV status every day, ViiV said.
"The future of HIV treatment and prevention is long-acting," Kimberly Smith, head of research and development at ViiV, told Reuters in an interview ahead of the study's publication. "We’re to the point where we can improve (peoples’) quality of life, because HIV is still a very stigmatized disease."
Pfizer Inc and Shionogi & Co Ltd have small stakes in ViiV.
($1 = 0.8267 pounds) (Reporting by Maggie Fick Editing by Mark Potter)