Unitaid and the Medicines Patent Pool on Thursday, July 28 announced that there is a deal to allow distribution of a low-cost generic version of a long-term preventative treatment against HIV in low-income countries.
This deal will see ViiV Healthcare, a subsidiary of British pharmaceutical giant GSK, permit selected manufacturers to produce generic versions of Cabotegravir LA, its long-acting pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) treatment for HIV.
The deal will provide access to the injectable version of cabotegravir, which has been shown to provide two months of protection against infection, in 90 countries where over 70 percent of all new HIV infections occurred in 2020, said Unitaid.
“Access to an effective long-acting HIV prevention option could significantly contribute to the goal of ending HIV transmission and ending the epidemic by 2030,” said Unitaid spokesman Herve Verhoosel.
“Efforts to increase access to Cabotegravir LA for PrEP will be especially impactful for groups that experience particularly high rates of infection, such as men who have sex with men and sex workers,” he added.
Moreover, the long-lasting cabotegravir injections only recently became available. Nonetheless, it has proved to be more effective than an oral version that needed to be taken daily.
However, the cost is too high. A year’s treatment for HIV as of earlier this year in the United States went for $22,000 hence, an obstacle for widespread rollout in all but high-income countries.
In addition, The World Health Organization on Thursday released new guidelines about cabotegravir, while urging countries to work towards making the drug swiftly available for those in need.
“We hope these new guidelines will help accelerate country efforts to start to plan and deliver CAB-LA alongside other HIV prevention options,” Meg Doherty, director of the WHO’s global HIV, hepatitis and sexually-transmitted infection programmes, said in a statement.
Similarly, the news follows a new report presented at the International AIDS Conference in Montreal, Canada. The report determined that the global fight against HIV has stalled from shrinking resources due to Covid-19 and other crises.
“Long-acting PrEP could play a major role in ending the HIV pandemic, but right now, very few people can get it,” said Adeeba Kamarulzaman, president of the International AIDS Society.
“Scaling up affordable access to this game-changing prevention tool must be a top global priority,” she noted in a statement.
Unitaid is a global health initiative responsible for ensuring equitable access to medical innovations in low- and middle-income countries.
On the other hand, the Medicines Patent Pool, founded by Unitaid and UN-backed, works to licence needed medicines for generic distribution in low- and middle-income countries.