Friday, 04 June 2021 16:09

FirstHealth offers new injectable treatment for HIV

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Gretchen Arnoczy, M.D. FirstHealth infectious diseases specialist Gretchen Arnoczy, M.D. FirstHealth infectious diseases specialist FirstHealth

PINEHURST —  FirstHealth of the Carolinas recently administered its first dose of Cabenuva, a new long-acting injectable treatment for human immunodeficiency virus. 


Approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration on Jan. 21, the drug is administered monthly with two separate injections of cabotegravir and rilpivirine, drugs classified as integrase inhibitors that prevent viral HIV DNA integration and cell replication. 

Gretchen Arnoczy, M.D. FirstHealth infectious diseases specialist, said the injections are long-acting medicines similar to the daily pills many HIV patients take to keep the virus suppressed. 

“This is a major breakthrough in treatment for HIV infection,” Dr. Arnoczy said. “With Cabenuva, patients can go from receiving treatment 365 days to 12 days per year. Treatment of HIV is intended to give people living with the virus their lives back, and this helps to simplify that mission.” 

Two phase three clinical trials, ATLAS and FLAIR, were designed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of Cabenuva in adults with HIV-1. Both studies were international and randomized with more than 1,000 participants divided into two equal groups, those who switched to Cabenuva treatment and those who continued their current daily pill regimen. The studies tested Cabenuva over a 48-week period and found that at week 48, nine out of 10 people remained undetectable, whether they were on HIV pills or Cabenuva. 

At the end of the trials, patients were asked to complete a question assessing their treatment preference. Eighty-eight percent preferred Cabenuva over their previous oral regimen, 10 percent did not respond and two percent preferred their previous oral treatment regimen. 

“This is a very exciting development for people in our community who live with HIV,” Dr. Arnoczy said. “We are thrilled to be able to offer this at FirstHealth.” 

She said Cabenuva is currently approved for patients who have no history of treatment failure, or changing medications because one stopped working, and who have had an undetectable virus for more than six months. It is currently not approved as a treatment option for individuals recently diagnosed with HIV, but recently diagnosed patients may be eligible once the virus has been undetectable for at least six months. 

Patients should talk to their doctor about whether they are eligible for Cabenuva, and if it is the right option for them. To learn more about FirstHealth of the Carolinas Infectious Diseases, visit www.firsthealth.org or call 910-715-5481.