Lady rings, tablets, films to ward off HIV

On May 24, at M2010, the sixth biennial meeting of the International Microbicides Conference in Pittsburgh, researchers presented three new drug delivery methods to protect women against HIV-AIDS.

For decades public health professionals and researchers have been battling HIV and studying the links between mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) and ways to empower females to practice safe sex due to the prevalence of male-to-female transmission.

Strides have been made but the rate of treatment is dwarfed by transmission, 2:5 according to Microbicide Trial Network's (MTN) analysis of 2007 data from UNAIDS and the US Center for Disease Control (CDC). "In sub-Saharan Africa women aged 15-24 are the highest risk group Globally, women account for half of all HIV infections, and in sub-Saharan Africa, women comprise 60 percent of all infected adults," and in "southern Africa women aged 15 to 24 are at least three times more likely than their male peers to be infected with HIV."

Rings, tablets and films are now in development and testing to empower women to take control of their own health by offering new therapeutic drug delivery and more discreet, longer lasting options than microbicide gels.

The ring
Similar to vaginal contraception rings made out of ethylene-vinyl acetate copolymer  (EVA), a plastic, Andrew Loxley, PhD, director of new technologies at Particle Sciences, Inc., explained this new ring has been embedded with dapivirine and maraviroc, two anti-HIV drugs. The ring is at the beginning stages of clinical safety trials and has promising results from previous efficacy studies that showed the two drugs remained intact and the time controlled slow release show consistent output for 15 days and steady delivery up to one month, compared to gels that are applied daily.

The tablet
Sanjay Garg, PhD, an associate professor in the School of Pharmacy, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, at the University of Auckland, New Zealand and his team have created a tear-shaped gel vaginal tablet that melts in three minutes and delivers a slow release of antiretrovirals (ARV) including dapivirine and DS003 for more than twelve hours. The tablet has yet to undergo toxicology screens and although a convenient option, it will likely not beat the ring to the market as it is in its earliest stages.

The film
Anthony Ham, PhD, director of formulation and delivery at ImQuest BioSciences and his team have created a vaginal film with a new antiretroviral (ARV) compound, IQP-0528. The film is ultra thin and smaller than a piece of gum made similarly to various consumer goods including "contraceptive films, contact lens solutions and mouthwash strips" in using "thin polyvinyl alcohol polymer, a water-soluble synthetic plastic" melts in ten minutes and releases high levels of the ARV. The studies conducted to date show promising results but much more work in needed.

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