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Understanding your HIV Meds

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

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.

Today, single tablet regimens for HIV treatment are common. They are combination of 3 drugs in 1 pill. This type of combination treatment, called Antiretroviral Therapy or ART for short, has fewer side effects and is highly effective at suppressing the virus in the body.

What are single tablet treatments?

Single tablet treatments contain medications from different classes of drugs. You may have heard terms like protease inhibitors, integrase inhibitors, NNRTIs (non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors) and others. Over the past number of years, researchers discovered that combining different classes of drugs to treat HIV 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 3 different drugs from a mix of these classes, and they are commonly prescribed today.

So, what’s 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 3 to 2 in a single tablet, researchers have found that they are able to maintain viral suppression and overall good health, with lower cost and fewer side-effects.

Juluca is the latest advancement in HIV treatment

Juluca is a brand new 2-in-one that has recently been approved in Canada. It 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.

The research shows that patients who switched 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.

Costs and coverage

So, how much does Juluca cost and is it covered? 3-in-one treatments like Triumeq cost about $1600 per month. Juluca costs about $1200 per month. Juluca is not currently covered by ODB plans like Trillium, but that could change. 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.

Another 2-in-one treatment containing Dolutegravir and Lamivudine (3TC) will likely be approved by Health Canada later this year, so that’s something to keep an eye out for.

Check out these research articles on 2-in-ones vs 3-in-ones for more info.

As always, if you have questions about 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]

Research on 2-in-one therapies for HIV:

The Emergence of Dual Drug Therapy [link to:

https://www.catie.ca/en/treatmentupdate/treatmentupdate-229/anti-hiv-agents/emergence-dual-drug-therapy]

Dual Maintenance Therapy for HIV [link to: https://www.catie.ca/en/treatmentupdate/treatmentupdate-229/anti-hiv-agents/dual-maintenance-therapy-dolutegravir-rilpivirin]

Zahid S Village Pharmacy