GlaxoSmithKline is developing a pioneering injection to retake the lead in the £20billion HIV drugs market.
Top executives at the firm’s HIV arm, Viiv Healthcare, yesterday touted a pipeline that includes a pill combining two drugs and a game-changing jab.
The company is racing against arch-rival Gilead Sciences to develop treatments that suppress the virus but also reduce side effects for patients.
HIV hope: GlaxoSmithKline is racing against arch rival Gilead Sciences to develop treatments that suppress the virus
If the new drugs are successful it would be a major boost to chief executive Emma Walmsley, who has made HIV one of her top research priorities. Glaxo previously dominated the market, but has since fallen behind Gilead.
Viiv healthcare boss Deborah Waterhouse said it was now aiming to retake the lead by the mid-2020s if the company’s pipeline proceeds as planned.
She claimed Viiv’s secret weapon was its use of two-drug treatments, which were just as effective as three-drug alternatives used by competitors and had fewer side effects.
Dr Kimberly Smith, Viiv’s head of global research and medical strategy, added: ‘Our competitors have stuck with the same old pattern … What we have done is different to what anyone has ever done before.’
Key to Glaxo’s HIV products is dolutegravir, also called Tivicay, a drug that blocks an enzyme used by the HIV virus to multiply.
Glaxo currently sells Tivicay as a single pill, and it is also a component of the three-drug pill Triumeq.
But last week Glaxo revealed promising test results from its Gemini study, which looked at the effects of a two-drug pill that can be taken by patients who are new to treatment.
This is now expected to be submitted to regulators for approval. Analysts predict it will generate sales of more than £1billion a year – making it a blockbuster drug.
But HIV patients must take these pills daily, something they say adds to the stigma of having the virus.
In response, Glaxo has developed an injectable drug combination which it hopes would allow them to receive just one shot a month instead.
It is due to report on test results in the coming months and, if they are successful, could bring the shot to market as soon as late 2019.
Dr Smith said: ‘That would take things a step even further forward – and it would show the world there is an option for people that means they do not have to worry about taking medication daily.
‘The hope is we can make HIV treatment a lesser part of patients’ lives.’
Last year Glaxo reported sales of £4.3billion for its HIV drugs.