Merck, a pharmaceutical company based out of New Jersey has restarted their clinical trials of islatravir, an experimental antiretroviral HIV drug. The testing of this drug had previously been on hold due to safety concerns.
Islatravir, or EFdA, is a nucleoside reverse transcriptase translocation inhibitor (NRTTI). This means that they become active upon entering the body and undergo chemical changes in the host cell to make it harder for viruses to replicate. In this case, it aims to limit the ability of the HIV virus to replicate in body cells.
In combination with other drugs, Islatravir has demonstrated positive results in previously untreated people. Other studies have shown that this drug maintained viral suppression in people currently on other forms of treatment.
The new round of studies of islatravir will focus on the virus suppressing qualities of the drug, including the examination of its viability as a substitute for other antiretroviral drugs with undesired side effects and more frequent ingestion requirements. In one of the earliest treatment trials, it was reported that 90% of previously untreated participant achieved an undetectable viral load. Attempts are currently being made to test if lowering the dose will achieve those same results. Reports have states that application of Islatravir as a once-daily medication would not be a dramatic improvement for those already taking antiretroviral drugs once-daily, but if researchers are able to lower the dosage to once-weekly it would offer an attractive alternative to many HIV positive individuals currently taking daily medications.