Researchers at the Oak Crest Institute of Science in Pasadena, CA are making history by proving that it's possible to develop a drug delivery system that has the potential to protect women from sexually transmitted HIV and herpes simplex virus (HSV), while at the same time preventing unintended pregnancy. Their groundbreaking findings were recently published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.
The report describes in vivo results from a novel, multipurpose pod-intravaginal ring ("pod-IVR") delivering three antiretroviral drugs in combination with two hormonal contraceptives.
Intravaginal rings have shown promise as an effective method to prevent sexual transmission of HIV, particularly for women in resource-poor areas of the developing world. While combinations of three antiretroviral drugs are highly successful in treatment of HIV infection, their use in an intravaginal ring platform has not been possible until now because the novel pod-IVR is the first that is capable of delivering more than two drugs at the same time.
Intravaginal rings for contraception and hormone replacement therapy are commercially available, but these ring designs are not applicable to many of the antiretroviral drugs developed to combat HIV infection and can only deliver a single drug, or a combination of two drugs if their physical properties are very similar.
The pod-IVR under development by Oak Crest, in collaboration with Auritec Pharmaceuticals, Inc. of Santa Monica, CA, allows each drug to be released from one or more separate "pods" within the ring. The release rate from each pod is controlled independently through both the pod structure and the properties of the pod components.
"The new pod-IVR can deliver up to five different drugs simultaneously, which is unlike any other device under development today," states Dr. Marc M. Baum, president of Oak Crest. "In contrast to daily therapies, sustained release approaches to drug delivery have special appeal for use in the developing world: they are less expensive on a per patient per day basis, they require less infrastructure to provide to the community, and they can be more effective," adds Dr. Baum.
Prevention of sexually transmitted HIV and HSV infection is a critical global health priority. According to the World Health Organization, there are some 35.3 million people living with HIV around the world today. In addition, approximately 87 million unintended pregnancies occur each year.
"The new drug delivery systems based on IVR devices empower women to protect themselves from HIV and other infections in regions where cultural, economic, and other factors put them at increased risk for becoming infected, with few options to protect themselves," adds Dr. Baum. "We are very excited about the long range implications of the use of the pod-IVR worldwide. Its use has the potential to benefit developing nations for generations to come."
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