GlaxoSmithKline, J&J make early progress with monthly HIV remedies

GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) and Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) have advanced development of injections that could provide HIV treatment without the burden of taking daily pills. And the program provides more evidence of how major drugmakers have teamed up to compete in the blockbuster market for HIV therapies.

Patents often prefer pills rather than needles. However, HIV patients take their pills for life. While Gilead ($GILD) and others have greatly reduced the number of antiviral drugs patients need to swallow every day--down to one in the case of Gilead's Atripla and Stribild--many patients would opt for injections received once a month or even less frequently.

Researchers showed that 40 HIV-negative patients on monthly injections of Glaxo's GSK744 and J&J's TMC278 had more than enough antiviral medicine in their systems during the study and for four months after their last shot, Bloomberg reported, based on results revealed at the International AIDS Society's annual congress in Kuala Lumpur. And GSK and J&J have already kicked off research of the combo in HIV-infected patients.

"It's certainly something that people have great interest in," Bill Spreen, the Glaxo scientist in charge of the GSK744 program, told the news service in an interview. "There's going to be a sub-population of patients who select this."

The combo program highlights the strategy of Glaxo and others to join forces in the development of branded HIV drugs. Gilead has been the number one player in this market for years, building a blockbuster HIV franchise primarily with drugs from its own pipeline. Conversely, Glaxo is developing GSK744, a version of its blockbuster hopeful dolutegravir, through ViiV Healthcare, an HIV joint venture among GSK, Pfizer ($PFE) and most recently the Japanese drugmaker Shionogi.

Gilead has the world's largest branded HIV drug business today, but Glaxo and J&J now have the most advanced long-lasting injected therapy in the clinic.

- check out Bloomberg's article