HIV prevention pill shows promising results in real world trials

The drug Travada, designed to prevent HIV infections in high-risk patients, is showing encouraging results in the field.  Two recent studies demonstrate the efficacy of Travada in a real-world setting, corroborating the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommendation of the drug as a preventative measure against HIV, according to a report by Reuters.

Travada has been approved by the FDA as a “pre-exposure prophylaxis” or PrEP drug, even though it had never been tested outside clinical trials before now. The results of both new studies are published in the journal The Lancet.

In one study, conducted in San Francisco, there were no new instances of HIV among the 657 people who used Travada. In the second study, conducted in the UK, those who used the drug saw fewer instances of HIV than those who did not take the medication.

Interestingly, 41 percent of all participants reported a decrease in condom use while taking Travada. Dr. Jonathan Volk, lead author of the San Francisco study, says such a statistic might be because some of the subjects entered into monogamous relationships. Considering the high percentage of subjects having unprotected sex, Dr. Volk is convinced “we would have seen some new HIV infections” had those involved in the study not used the drug, Reuters reports.

In Volk’s study, however, over half the subjects developed sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The researchers are unsure if this increase in STI diagnoses occurred because the patients on PrEP made more doctor’s visits, thereby increasing the likelihood of finding infections.

The study of Travada conducted in the UK compared rates of HIV infection between gay men who were using  PrEP already and those who were required to wait a year before using it. The researchers found that the former group had far fewer instances of HIV infection. Only between one and two percent of those who used Travada became infected, versus nine percent of those who did not have access to the drug.

“I don’t think PrEP is the magic bullet, but we know that it does work really well…It’s great to know we have options.” said Dr. Kenneth Mayor, founder, co-Chair, and medical research director of the Fenway Institute in Boston, in the Reuters report.

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