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Cabenuva listed on the PBS for Australians living with HIV

  • Cabenuva (cabotegravir prolonged-release suspension for injection and rilpivirine prolonged-release suspension for injection) has been listed on the PBS as a long-acting treatment for Australians living with HIV-1.
  • This listing will allow some people living with HIV who had previously been taking daily medications for viral suppression to reduce their dosing days from 365 days to six per year after initiation.

ViiV Healthcare Australia has welcomed the announcement that Cabenuva (cabotegravir prolonged-release suspension for injection and rilpivirine prolonged-release suspension for injection) has been listed on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) as the first long-acting treatment for Australians living with HIV.

It will be reimbursed for virologically suppressed adults living with HIV-1 who have no known or suspected resistance to either cabotegravir or rilpivirine to maintain viral suppression with six doses per year after initiation.

This listing is an important development for the more than 29,000 Australians currently living with HIV, many of whom currently take medications daily.

In recommending the reimbursement, the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) commented that, “some people living with HIV in certain populations, such as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people, those living in rural or remote settings, and individuals with complex living or social circumstances, had issues adhering to a daily oral regimen and would potentially have improved quality of life from a long-acting injectable option.”

HIV is commonly treated with daily oral antiretroviral therapy (ART). However, people living with HIV often experience challenges related to the daily dosing of ART, including fear of unintentionally revealing their HIV status, anxiety over adhering to their daily medication and or the stress and painful memories from daily medication intake.

Dr David Baker, leading GP in the treatment of people living with HIV from East Sydney Doctors, said the addition of Cabenuva on the PBS may help reduce the burden of the disease on people living with HIV.

“Over the last 20 years we’ve made great progress in developing effective treatments for HIV that can suppresses the virus in the body to undetectable levels, however until now it has required daily treatment. The introduction of a long-acting injectable treatment means that eligible people living with HIV will only need to be treated every two months, rather than every day. This approach has the potential to help lessen the burden of treatment and reduce the worry and stigma that comes with having to take treatments daily,” said Dr Baker.

Dr Matthew Shields, a sexual health physician at Taylor Square Private Clinic, commented that the new long-acting treatment is another option for people living with HIV that may provide increased control over their sexual health and well-being.

“We know that historically HIV treatments have played a significant role in reducing stigma, leading to improved sexual health and wellbeing for those living with HIV. The reimbursement of a long-acting injectable treatment will only help to further this progress, as it has the potential to improve quality of life for people living with HIV by reducing the daily reminder of their HIV status and also removing the anxiety around potentially forgetting the daily oral tablets,” said Dr Shields.

According to Scott Harlum, President of the National Association for People with HIV in Australia (NAPWHA), treatment innovations have the potential to improve quality of life for people living with HIV.

“The approval of long-lasting injectable anti-retroviral treatments are a welcome development for people with HIV. As an additional treatment option, long-lasting injectable treatments can reduce the burden of taking daily medication and further assist people with HIV adhere to their treatment regime. This, in turn, helps ensure people with HIV are able to maintain an undetectable viral load which is both good for their own health, but also eliminates any risk of transmission of HIV,” he said.

Dr Fraser Drummond, Medical Director at ViiV Healthcare Australia, said the reimbursement of Cabenuva represents a shift in the way HIV is treated by offering people living with HIV a new approach to care.

“Long-acting HIV treatments have the potential to reduce the fear of disclosure and the anxiety of having to remember to take a pill every day,” said Dr Drummond.

“ViiV Healthcare is dedicated to ensuring no one living with HIV is left behind. Adding this first-of-its-kind regimen to our portfolio of innovative medicines in Australia shows how committed we are to this mission,” he said.

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