HEALTHCARE | Staff Reporter, Hong Kong

Gilead reveals HIV drug Biktarvy ‘demonstrates efficacy' in HIV battle

Multiple studies show higher effectiveness than existing treatments.

There is some good news in the fight against HIV in Asia with multiple studies involving 63 Asian adults showing 100% viral suppression, which means doctors now have more options to treat their patients with.

In Asia, Biktarvy is currently approved in Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and Thailand, which means those in other Asian countries such as the Philippines do not yet have access to the treatment.

American biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences was the first company to provide a HIV prevention medication and it has been in the spotlight this year for its COVID-19 treatment, Remdesivir, which is the first drug approved in the US for the treatment of COVID-19 requiring hospitalization. 

Now, its HIV drug has shown high efficacy with zero resistance and good safety and tolerability in multiple clinical trials.

Dr Kuan-Yeh Lee, director of HIV Medical Affairs Asia of Gilead Sciences, said the additional data on Biktarvy can further support healthcare providers in making the appropriate treatment choice for HIV patients in Asia.

“With convenient dosing and few pre-screening or ongoing monitoring requirements, it has the potential to simplify treatment initiation and follow-up over time and achieve better drug adherence,” Gilead said in an email to Healthcare Asia.

“Asia is home to over 5 million people living with HIV, with 300,000 new cases recorded in 2019. Despite that, Asian HIV patients remain largely underrepresented in HIV clinical trials,” Gilead added. “While we continue to face challenges with late diagnosis and leakage of patients from getting tested and care, the findings from this study conducted among Asian adults yield important long-term data on the safety, tolerability, and efficacy of Biktarvy in this important patient population.”

Biktarvy is a combination drug (bictegravir 50 mg/emtricitabine 200 mg/tenofovir alafenamide 25 mg tablets, B/F/TAF) taken as a once-a-day tablet regimen for the treatment of HIV infection in adults and children who weigh at least 55 pounds.

Antiretroviral drugs help lower viral load by controlling the growth of the virus and improve the immune system. Some drug manufacturers combine some HIV medicines in one pill, so that patients can easily take it. Among the fixed-dose combinations are Nucleotide Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs), Non-nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTIs), Protease Inhibitors (PIs), and Integrase Strand Transfer Inhibitor (INSTI).

According to Gilead, analysis from three studies in Asian population “demonstrated efficacy of switching to B/F/TAF from INSTI-based antiretroviral therapy, or a boosted PI with two NRTIs baseline regimens, among virologically suppressed Asian adults living with HIV.”

“In the analysis, 100 percent of the 63 Asian adults who switched to B/F/TAF maintained virologic suppression with no emergent resistance, versus 95.9 percent in those stay on baseline regimen group, through a maximum of 48 weeks. B/F/TAF was well tolerated with no adverse events leading to discontinuation among Asian participants in the studies,” Gilead said in a media release.

The research results were revealed at the 2020 Asia Pacific AIDS & Co-Infections Conference. The sub-analyses are just a small part of Gilead’s ongoing studies focusing on Asian patients. The company said it is committed to conducting more studies to further demonstrate the clinical benefits of Biktarvy for patients in Asia, across ages, countries, and disease profiles.

HIV patients are encouraged to disclose to their doctor all their medical conditions, all the medications they take, and their pregnancy and breastfeeding as Biktarvy may cause side effects.

Outside Asia, Biktarvy is approved for use in the United States and the European Union. Gilead said it “recognises that there is a greater need for HIV treatment in the less-developed parts of the world.”

“We have put in place innovative programs and partnerships such as Medicines Patent Pool, Voluntary Licensing to expand global access to Gilead’s HIV therapies, especially in countries where need is high, but the ability to pay is low,” the company explained. 

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