Australian researchers have shown lower doses of an important HIV drug is effective and safe for keeping the virus suppressed, compared to standard recommendations that makes HIV therapy more costly.
Investigators at the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) presented their findings at the International AIDS Society Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The scientists followed 630 HIV-positive people from 13 countries in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and Latin America for a year.
Half of the study participants received two-thirds the daily dose of the commonly used antiretroviral (ART) drug efavirenz and the other half took the standard dose of the drug.
The study result, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, found taking one-third less of the HIV drug adequately suppressed the virus without any side effects.
NSW Professor Sean Emery, the protocol chairperson of the study, known as ENCORE1 and Head of the Therapeutic and Vaccine Research Program at the Kirby Institute said in a press release: "This has the potential to affect the treatment of millions of HIV positive people.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 70 million people have been infected with the HIV/AIDS virus since the beginning of the epidemic and 35 million have died. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for 69 percent of people living with HIV globally. In 2011, 1.7 million people died from AIDS-related illness worldwide.
Emery adds the study finding would translate to “…lower cost treatment and permit more effective and efficient use of health care resources.”
More people could receive lifesaving HIV treatment for the same amount of funding by taking a lower dose of the antiretroviral drug, Emery said.