A new once-a-day pill combining four AIDS drugs has proved slightly better than two existing once-a-day regimens, according to studies published in The Lancet last week.
The new pill, called Quad, had roughly the same side-effects rate, though some were different. For example, it appeared to cause more nausea but fewer rashes than Atripla, a common three-drug pill. It appeared to cause more kidney problems than a four-drug two-pill mix, but fewer patients stopped taking it.
Quad, from Gilead Sciences, which paid for the trials, contains a mix of tenofovir, emtricitabine, a newer antiretroviral drug named elvitegravir and an “enhancer” called cobicistat. Both trials involved about 700 patients from North America or Europe and lasted about a year. About 88 percent of patients on Quad had no detectable virus in their blood, compared with 84 percent of those on Atripla; against the four-drug regimen, Quad won by 90 percent versus 87 percent.
“Triple-therapy cocktails” have been the standard since 1995, but mixes of four newer drugs are becoming more popular.
For example, Cipla, an Indian drug company that supplies millions of doses to Africa, markets Quvir, a four-drug “kit” in two pills.
The Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve Quad later this year. Its price has not yet been set. Atripla costs about $22,000 per year in the United States. Cipla sells its generic version, Viraday, for $200.