Our Medical Director, Dr Steve Taylor, offers his comments on the BBC’s story that a new HIV quad pill ‘may improve care’. Other versions of the story can also be seen at ABC News and NetDoctor, and the news is based on the application for approval from Gilead Sciences received by the USA’s Food and Drug Administration: the company’s new ‘four-in-one’ pill for HIV patients is now believed to be as effective as standard anti-retrovirals in the treatment of HIV.
In the BBC piece, Dr Taylor says: “Without a doubt the achievement of a one-a-day pill has been a big advance in tackling HIV. We’ve come a long way from people taking up to 40 pills three times a day.” He warns, however, that treatment is only as effective as our diagnosis regimes. With one of four of those in the UK who have HIV unaware they are infected, treatment is still not getting to a quarter of those who need it.
“Today’s medicines are hugely effective in managing HIV,” Dr Taylor continues. “It is not precisely news that we’ve made such huge advanced, and that people living with HIV can now enjoy full lives unencumbered by the very difficult drug regimes of the past. Our real challenge is persuading people to test for HIV in the first place.
“All new drug advances are to be welcomed, but we desperately need an equally significant push and focus upon diagnosing the undiagnosed, so that today’s effective treatments can make the difference to everyone with HIV.”
That’s where Saving Lives comes in, of course – today’s key challenge is to increase and improve testing, in part using the advances in drug therapy such as that announced today to convince those reluctant to test that testing not not only a sensible precaution – but that it saves lives. The quad pill is another excellent reason to take an HIV test if you’ve been at risk – early diagnosis makes for more effective treatment, and new drugs are only as effective as the number of people taking them.