Family Health International (FIH), an international public health and development organisation working to improve the lives of the world’s most vulnerable people, recently ended a trial of an oral pill aimed at preventing HIV infection in African women due to poor results. The US Centres for Disease control called the trial results “disappointing,” adding that the trial’s monitoring committee had decided it “could not demonstrate efficacy even if it continued to its originally planned conclusion.”
It maybe noted that the same oral treatment, known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention, has been shown to reduce risk of HIV transmission among men who have sex with men by between 73% and 90%. FIH, the trial operator, carried out the trials in Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania and it included 2,000 women. Trial subjects were asked to take oral tenofovir and emtricitabine, marketed as Truvada by the California-based Gilead Sciences Inc, or a placebo. Researchers said that the rate of new HIV infections in both the drug and placebo groups was the same, with 56 new HIV cases equally distributed across both sections of the study.
They also noted that the overall pregnancy rate among women in the study was 9%, with the highest rates seen in women taking birth control pills. More study is needed to determine if the anti-HIV treatment had a disabling effect on the oral contraceptives, Gilead Sciences researchers said. “While this development was not what we would have hoped for, Gilead believes that antiretroviral therapies remain a promising potential HIV prevention strategy. We continue to support ongoing studies evaluating the company’s antiretroviral therapies as potential preventatives,” Gilead Sciences said in a statement.