Zahid S Village Pharmacy

Single Tablet Regimens for HIV Treatment – What You Need to Know

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By: Zahid Somani R.Ph, The Village Pharmacy

If you are HIV positive, you may be on a single tablet regimen. This means that you take only 1 pill, once a day to suppress the virus in your body.

What are single tablet treatments?

Single tablet treatments for HIV contain medications from different classes of drugs.

Over the past number of years, researchers have discovered that combining different classes of drugs resulted in lower rates of the virus becoming resistant to treatment, and had better results over the long term.

Atripla and Triumeq are 3-in-one medications that contain three different drugs from a mix of these classes, and they are commonly prescribed today.

Treating HIV with multiple drugs is called Antiretroviral Therapy or ART for short. ART is highly effective at suppressing the virus in the body.

So, whats new in HIV treatment?

The biggest news in HIV treatment is ‘Dual Drug Therapy,’ that is, 2-in-one single tablet treatments.

Researchers have been looking for ways to reduce the cost and side-effect burden of HIV therapies. By reducing the number of drugs from three to two in a single tablet, researchers found that they can maintain low viral loads and overall good health, with lower cost and fewer side-effects.

Dovato is the latest single tablet regimen available for the treatment of HIV. Dovato was approved by Health Canada in September 2019. It contains two medications in one pill: Dolutegravir (an integrase inhibitor) and 3TC (also known as lamivudine, an NRTI). Dovato is a small pill that is taken once a day with or without food. Side effects were seen in fewer than 5% of research participants. They included headache, nausea, and diarrhea. Clinical trials show that Dovato is just as effective as other 3-in-1 medications currently on the market.

Dovato has been approved for use by men and women who are newly diagnosed with HIV and just starting anti-retroviral therapy, or those with high viral loads. Trials are currently underway to assess the effectiveness of Dovato when switching from more complicated regimens. Initial results are promising.

Juluca is also a new 2-in-one that is approved for use in Canada, and it is now covered by the Ontario Drug Benefit program (ODB). Juluca contains Dolutegravir (an integrase inhibitor) and Rilpivirine (an NNRTI). Doctors will consider prescribing Juluca as maintenance therapy, that is, once the virus has remained suppressed or has been undetectable for some time.

Research shows that patients who switched from more complicated regimens to a 2-in-one treatment like Juluca did fine, with the rates of success and side-effects about the same as 3-in-one treatments.

So how much does it cost?

3-in-one treatments like Triumeq cost about $1600 per month.

Dovato costs about $1100 per month. It is not yet covered by ODB or Trillium. If you need help with coverage for Dovato, come in to talk to us at The Village Pharmacy. We have Dovato in stock, and can help you get Dovato even if you don’t have insurance.

Juluca costs about $1200 per month, and as mentioned above, is now covered by ODB, and Trillium. Private health insurance plans will likely provide coverage for Juluca. If you need help navigating coverage for Juluca, please give us a call at The Village Pharmacy.

As always, if you have questions about Dovato, Juluca, HIV meds you are currently on or insurance coverage, drop me a line anytime at zahid@thevillagepharmacy.ca or give me a call. We’re here to help.

Zahid
zahid@thevillagepharmacy.ca
416-967-9221
www.thevillagepharmacy.ca

[link to: www.thevillagepharmacy.ca]