Antiretroviral medication Biktarvy has now been introduced to the Guyanese health-care system for the treatment of HIV-1 patients, a move that is seen as a gamechanger.
NEW GPC Inc has continued its ongoing collaboration with Gilead Sciences – an American biopharmaceutical company – to introduce the drug.
Biktarvy is a fixed-dose combination antiretroviral prescription medicine for the treatment of adults and children infected with HIV-1. It can be used by patients who are now being introduced to HIV medications, or people who are replacing their current HIV-1 medicines and whose health-care provider determines they meet certain requirements.
The three medicines in Biktarvy – Bictegravir, Emtricitabine, and Tenofovir Alafenamide – were designed to attack the virus immediately, thus lowering the amount of HIV in a patient’s blood to undetectable levels. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), many patients can get to undetectable levels as quickly as eight to 24 weeks when taking their treatment as prescribed.
At the launch on Thursday evening held at the Marriott Hotel, Health Minister, Dr Frank Anthony stated that Guyana has become dynamic for its robust HIV programme over the years by pushing boundaries with prevention and treatment.
According to him, Biktarvy is innovative and would be a good fit for the country’s treatment regimen. Biktarvy is not approved for paediatric use in Guyana.
“When you think about what we’re trying to do in the national programme, I think this launch nicely fits in the direction which we want to go. We’re also currently doing a revision of our treatment protocols and so, perhaps this comes at an appropriate occasion. We know from the products that Gilead has been producing, they do a lot of great products. Therefore, whether it is HIV or in other areas, we see opportunities for partnership,” the Health Minister underscored.
The 2030 goal is to end the HIV epidemic: to have 95 per cent of people with HIV know their status, 95 per cent of persons on treatment and 95 per cent of patients on treatment virally suppressed.
In Guyana, 94 per cent of persons living with HIV have identified their status, 70 per cent are on treatment and 87 per cent are virally suppressed.
Infectious Diseases Specialist, Dr Moti Ramgopal, who made a presentation on the epidemiology and clinical data, highlighted that stigma and discrimination still exist against those infected with HIV . Fortunately, he noted that the drugs created to treat HIV have been remarkably effective.
“The potency of our drugs, the half-life of our drugs are over 15 to 20 hours. Our binding capacity of medications are 30 to 40 hours, meaning these medications bind to the active site. Even if you miss a dose, that binding site is still active for two to three days. The drug level is still there for two to three days…When you look at Biktarvy and the drugs available now, the half-life is an incredible story,” Dr Ramgopal lauded.
He added, “Patients who are not virologically suppressed, 90 per cent are just not taking the medication appropriately, accurately, or there is something else going on with those patients. It is not a failure of the medications. It is very rare to see medications fail today.”