Feds Fund Implantable PrEP Study

Poz.com reports:

A group of 15 researchers and clinical investigators at Northwestern University received a $17.5 million grant to develop an implant capable of delivering meds that protect against HIV, according to a press release from the McCormick School of Engineering. The hope is that the implants would last for up to a year. The five-year project is underwritten by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is part of the National Institutes of Health. It brings together researchers from 15 different departments at Northwestern, including Feinberg School of Medicine, Kellogg School of Management and McCormick School of Engineering. In the first stage of the project, researchers hope to develop implants that deliver HIV meds in a controlled way. As Kiser noted: “Technology like this could be an important tool in fighting the global HIV/AIDS pandemic in the U.S. and in low-income countries.”

(Tipped by JMG reader Bill)

  • Bruno

    Yay, alma mater!

  • ErikDC

    Hello, good looking.

    Is that your PrEP implant or are you just happy to see me?

    • JT

      It’s both PrEP and prep.

      • Adam Cardin

        But not the kind of prep needed to be performed by a good bottom.

        • clay

          or, not the ONLY one.

  • GarySFBCN

    This is worse than a vaccine because, not only will it prevent the spread of HIV but also people will also be able to have sex without the fear of HIV. Keep the government out of my cum. /snark

    Those who say that they are against this are obviously owned by BigCondom, the aggregate of all companies in the multi-billion dollar condom industry.

  • LonelyLiberal

    Way awesome. The non-compliance argument goes right out the window with this one, as long as you keep the implant up to date.

    (Yes, I know it doesn’t protect against any other STIs. I’m also aware that a lot of people are in sero-diverse committed relationships where that doesn’t necessarily apply).

  • Adam Schmidt

    If this had come about in the late ’80s or early ’90s this would have been hailed as a miracle. I feel that degrading PrEP or the people who use it is disrespectful to the people who died because something like this wasn’t available. After more than 30 years of HIV, I find it amazing that something like this is finally coming around.

    • GarySFBCN

      Do as I did – link anti-PrEP people to anti-Vaxers.

      • fuow

        Not hard to do – both objections are based on stupidity.

        • crankyd

          The only problem with PrEP is that it doesn’t protect against other STD’s.
          My personal experience so far has been guys broadcasting that they are “neg and on PrEP,” therefore we don’t need to use condoms. They seem to be bragging that we’re going to be immune to all concerns. That simply isn’t the case and this attitude of carelessness shouldn’t be encouraged.
          I’m not saying don’t use PrEP (i’m no anti-vaxxer, btw), I’m saying keep PrEP as one more weapon in your arsenal to protect your health and the health of others.

          • Adam Schmidt

            I understand and agree that we need to pay attention to other STI’s besides HIV but let me ask… do you use a condom when you engage in oral sex? Unless your answer is yes, you’ve already established an acceptable level of risk when it comes to STI’s besides HIV. And the risk of transmission for most STI’s other than HIV isn’t that different for oral sex than it is for anal sex.

          • Brian Derrick

            Exactly. Still, it took me awhile to get used to the idea that not using condoms can be safe. There’s almost 35 years of fear there! Still, this may change evrything.

          • andrew

            The risk of getting STDs from oral sex is far less than anal sex.

          • westcoast88

            Based on what? A penis infected with gonorrhea, chlamydia or syphilis can infect your mouth/throat or anus/rectum equally well, and either new infection can have no symptoms.

          • crankyd

            Sorry, but i can’t imagine that’s at all true unless you’re talking about specifically about HIV, which is thought to be near-impossible to spread through oral sex.

          • crankyd

            I’m not seeing the point you’re trying to make. Sex has ALWAYS been about negotiating a certain amount of acceptable risk, no matter how careful one is. If you eliminate one more barrier of protection from your safety plan, you’re increasing your chances all the more for possible infection.
            Establishing a personally-acceptable level of risk and then throwing it all away because you’re not at 100% seems bewildering and completely illogical to me.
            Don’t get me wrong, I think the development of PrEP is a good thing, but those that publicly brag about using it have been people i’m NOT going to bareback with simply based on their word.
            And they are asking me for EXACTLY that.
            A LOT.
            This isn’t about slut-shaming; I like sluts. Safe(r) ones.

          • Adam Schmidt

            Ok, that last argument is one I’ll go with. In recent years we’ve had two major breakthroughs in preventing HIV transmission… PrEP and having an undetectable status. Both dramatically reduce transmission but neither is visible or provable “in the moment”.

            You’re having to take someone’s word. Just like people take someone’s word for it when they hear “oh, I’m negative” or they say they were tested recently. And frankly, I did sero-sort, I didn’t have sex with people who told me they were HIV positive (and I did ask), and I got HIV anyway.

            I feel that these discussions are really our community figuring out how to deal with HIV transmission when two very effective means of preventing transmission aren’t something you can see and touch while you’re having sex.

          • crankyd

            You’re still going on someone’s “word” when you have non-barrier sex with someone that claims to faithfully use PrEP. That’s a risk i’d prefer not to take, thanks.
            PrEP AND condoms, or just condoms? Yes, please.
            But I’m not about to simply go on someone’s word that they correctly use PrEP and therefore condoms aren’t needed (unless we’ve been seeing each other for a really long time).

            I can’t speak for anyone else, but this non-condom-use request scenario has been playing out for me A LOT over the last year of so.
            And I think these guys are either mostly liars or simply throwing away a proven and valuable additional precaution because of the “magic pill” thinking.

    • pipslvr

      PrEP stigma is actually a real thing. Maybe not explicitely stated, but a lot of people will mentally label PrEP uses as ‘whores’ or worse. We flaunt diversity and acceptance in our community yet so many will discriminate based on their lack of adaptation to change.

      • clay

        Educated, liberal people have assumed I’m HIV+ because I’m taking Truvada. And then wondered if they should start planning for my retirement and death. There’s still a huge, misdirected, emotional response to PrEP.

    • M

      The only objections I see to PrEP is those who claim here that it is some magical bean thing that they cannot infect another, and have actually bragged about lying to people because they do not like being asked about their status. I object to those who use this as an excuse to pressure others into no condom sex, or try to make it so they have no responsibility to another human being.

      As to this treatment or other use, possible prevention, I am all for it.

      It looks like you are playing games with the statement that people are degrading the drug itself.

      • Adam Schmidt

        Are you skipping over the numerous AHF statements and paid advertisements about Truvada and PrEP where they attack its effectiveness, the ability for people to take a pill a day, and so on?

  • Rocketeer500

    Good news. The regulated implant might have other important medical applications, unrelated to PrEP. Science at its best.

    • canoebum

      GPS?

      • Todd20036

        Erectile dysfunction

  • JT

    Good news. Let’s just hope this doesn’t slow research into a vaccine and especially a cure.

    • canoebum

      A technology like this could lead to eradication, which is a better outcome than any vaccine. We did it with smallpox, it is possible for HIV as well.

      • JT

        Why do you say better? It was a vaccine that did that for smallpox. The trouble with this method is that it’s only good for a year and isn’t as easy to administer as a vaccine. Also, a vaccine can sometimes offer help if given up to a few days after exposure.

        • canoebum

          Because eradication means there is so little of the virus in the human population that the disease basically becomes extinct. Yes, smallpox was eradicated by a vaccine, but regardless of the means, the only place in the world today where smallpox virus exists is in secure laboratories, frozen to at least -20 F. A device like this has the potential of removing the virus from the human environment. That’s better.

          • JT

            It’s better to have it eradicated, but this is not a better means to do that than a vaccine for the reasons I’ve mentioned. Also, this method is dependent on a continual supply of costly medications and provides no protection when it doesn’t continue being administered. One outbreak, even after an announced eradication, could start the ball rolling again. With vaccines continuing protection would be much easier.

          • canoebum

            We’re in agreement on the goal here. It may be an open question as to whether these medications (and the delivery system) will remain too costly for widespread distribution. That’s a political issue. We’re also only seeing now the first iteration of the system; more advanced versions will surely come along. Eradication is better than using vaccines as a hedge against a potential outbreak because viruses mutate, as we all know. A vaccine against today’s strains may not be effective against a future outbreak. Of course, they will always be important in the arsenal. Effective elimination of the virus is what we seek. Remember, HIV is not a new virus. There is evidence that it may have been infecting humans since the 1950s. It was only the development of roads into the interior, motor vehicles and airplanes that allowed it to escape its central Africa home and become a pandemic.

          • JT

            Yes we agree on the goal. We are far off from any kind of eradication in any case. I do not agree that using such preventative methods is better than developing a vaccine, though of course they should be employed. Such methods may themselves not be effective against new strains.

          • PozSince1985

            Give it a rest. Vaccine research is still continuing, and is unlikely to stop.

            It is a very complex problem, much more than initially expected. Where most vaccines educe a single antibody. With HIV it turns out we need to induce many different antibodies.

            A large portion of the IAS 2015 conference a couple of weeks ago was dedicated to the current state of vaccine research.

          • JT

            Thanks for your opinion. You apparently agree with me but seem to have an attitude problem.

        • clay

          2) Post Exposure Prophylaxis exists and is used for HIV already. Just ask anyone in emergency medicine.

          1) HIV is such a weak, rapidly mutating virus that a vaccine is incredibly difficult to produce. Because it targets the immune system, a balancing act has to be developed that the vaccine will work, but won’t attack the immune system. The HIV vaccines that HAVE been developed simply don’t work well enough, let alone as well as PrEP.

          • JT

            I believe that research is continuing and should continue. We certainly don’t know all there is to know about the virus or possible ways of treating it.

            Are you suggesting that such research should stop?

          • clay

            These drugs BOTH treat AND prevent HIV infection. Developing them and the wide-acting anti-bodies has hugely advanced work on other viral diseases. But developing a vaccine that is only 33% effective in the best case, isn’t worth much in the face of methods that are 99% effective.

            Vaccine studies are continuing, but are simply not the answer to a pandemic with multiple strains– they would only be effective in local areas with low transportation accessibility. This/these wouldn’t be anything like the smallpox or polio vaccines, but like the flu vaccines.

          • JT

            We can’t possibly know enough now to make such an assessment that would close off research. New treatments for other diseases often bring with them knowledge that can be used to advance treatments for diseases that may earlier have been thought difficult to deal with. Commonalities are sometimes discovered that previously were unknown. Research is continuing in these fields and should continue.

          • clay

            We’re conducting a global, uncontrolled experiment on HIV vaccination right now. There are thousands of people on the planet who have HIV antibodies, but not HIV, already due to prenatal intrauterine, due to medically induced (experimental), or due to HIV infection followed by HAART. From this we can clearly see, already, that having HIV antibodies does not protect someone from AIDS. Induced antibody production through vaccination can slow HIV transmission through a person and through a population, but it is (and in all realistic models, will be) less effective than PrEP and HAART simply because when HIV, even when tagged with antibodies, is taken into the immune cells, it takes over, rather than gets taken out.

            PrEP is not the replacement for vaccine research. The wide acting antibodies, that are more effective than our naturally developing HIV antibodies induced by vaccination, are the replacement for vaccine research.

  • Goodboy

    They need to develop something like this for people that are Hiv positive too.

    • Todd20036

      They’re working on it. An implant thst lasts a month is nearly ready

      • Goodboy

        Ah good to hear. Made no sense that this wasn’t in the works too.

  • AndyinChicago

    I worked in the E wing of Tech at Northwestern and new a lot of people in the Biomedical Engineering Department (I was in a lab in the Chemical and Biological Engineering Department, which is in the same building wing but kept very distinct). They’re great researchers and good people, and I feel comfortable with this research in their hands.

    • StraightGrandmother

      Hey thanks for that validation Andy.

  • leastyebejudged

    The data from this should be extremely interesting, since the question of dosing and compliance will be once and for all properly controlled for.

    I just wonder if people will scrutinize this study as much as it needs to be and follow the facts where they lead, instead of doing what’s usually done – lie and deceive and propagandize.

  • Todd20036

    They are working on something similar for HAART drugs. When it works for a year, I’ll consider it

  • Ginger Snap

    I want this for my HIV meds I’m so over all the pills.

    • clay

      They’re working on a 3 month implantable for HIV treatment. BTW, would this allow a “cocktail” to be split with an implant for two of the three?

      • Adam Schmidt

        They’re also in testing for an injection that will be for somewhere between 1 and 3 months.

  • Hue-Man

    “The study, from the Canadian Observational Cohort Collaboration, indicated the overall life expectancy of Canadians undergoing antiretroviral treatment for the AIDS-causing virus had climbed to 65 years — about a 16-year jump since 2000.

    But while those increases were felt across the board, life expectancy was shown to have improved more for men than for women. People with a history of drug use and those with First Nations ancestry also didn’t experience as much of an increase.”

    http://www.ctvnews.ca/health/life-expectancy-of-hiv-positive-canadians-rises-to-65-years-study-1.2505690

  • StraightGrandmother

    This is wonderful news. It will be kind of like how women have to go in for their annual Pap smear, at risk people will go on for their annual PrEP refresh. Did you ever notice in PrEP if you transpose the letters you get perp? They coulda tweeked the name just a bit.

    • Herald

      It would be kind of like the “birth control” implants that some women get as well. (birth control is in quotes because these meds are used for much more than just birth control.)

      • clay

        (which are becoming much more common in the US, starting to reach IUD levels of use.)

  • Piet

    This is good news and I welcome it, but I’ve been wondering whether it wouldn’t also be a good idea to explore an implant that would somehow alter the chemistry of the seminal fluid so that any HIV cells in it would be DOA when ejaculated. That seems like it would be another safety point, working from the poz person’s side. Certainly, we need whatever defense or offense we can muster while the researchers dither over vaccine possibilities.

    • clay

      HAART basically eliminates HIV from blood and semen in people where it works well. This is one reason why frequent testing and early treatment is important. HAART does that without altering the basic make-up of body fluids and prevents the virus from doing much harm to the person infected.

      • Piet

        Right. I was thinking of something more direct, though, more like a hit to the fluid that would spell instant death to any HIV cells that did make it past HAART, which doesn’t work equally well in all patients, unfortunately. An implant would also work around any problems with compliance in taking the oral medications.

  • TexasBoy

    If there are few to no side effects, this would be awesome.

  • Octavio

    Hope it works and hope it’s inexpensive.

    • clay

      That’s why government, UN, and private (Melinda Gates) funding is so important in this research. And, as a public good, most public health, or just medical, research needs to be subsidized.

      • Octavio

        Agreed, but maybe someday when I’m long dead and gone the USA will have progressed to the same enlightenment of Argentina, where all AIDS and AIDS-related treatment is covered 100% by the government. This also includes run-of-the-mill STDs (I’m too old to start calling them STIs — fuck that weird shit). 🙂

        • clay

          or even Botswana, where they’re considering making PrEP as so wide-spread and standard that they can actually reduce HIV testing and treatment.

  • andrew

    All that taxpayer money spent so sexually active people don’t have to use an effective and inexpensive condom.