TUESDAY, Oct. 25, 2011 (HealthDay News) -- Preliminary research suggests that a patch could deliver an AIDS drug to patients, but it's too early to know if it could work in animals, let alone humans.
Still, the findings raise the prospect of a simple way to administer AIDS drugs, which patients don't always take as they should. Patches could be worn for seven days, and an author of the new study said it would add only a fraction of a cent to the cost of the drug itself.
"We are encouraged by these results, and we're ready to go to the next stage of developments," said lead researcher Anthony Ham, director of formulations with the pharmaceutical research company ImQuest BioSciences. The study was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
The researchers successfully used transdermal patches to administer 96 percent of an AIDS drug to simulated skin over a week, Ham said. The AIDS drug, which is under development, is not available to the public.
"These patches require a low cost to manufacture, have a high rate of release and are able to inhibit HIV infection," Ham said. The next step is to test the patches in animals.
Patients with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, don't need to cope with the complicated regimens of earlier years that required them to take multiple pills at different times throughout the day. Now, about 70 percent of newly treated patients in the United States take a single pill a day, while patients in other parts of the world may take one pill twice a day, said Rowena Johnston, director of research with the Foundation for AIDS Research.
"Still, the important limitation of pills, regardless of how few there are or even how minimal the side effects, is adherence," Johnston noted. Research has shown that many patients, if not most, don't take their pills all the time.
"The huge potential advantage of a patch, depending on how long it secretes the right level of drug, is the ability to maintain the right level of the drug without the fluctuations observed when adherence to pills is less than perfect," Johnston said.
A patch could also be an effective way to provide medication that prevents people from getting HIV in the first place, she said.
Still, "there's a long way to go between what appears to be promising findings now and a patient's skin," she said. While patches have long been used in other kinds of medicine, researchers will still need to launch studies to test their safety and figure out if they work, she said. "The concept is a good one, but I wonder whether there are fundamental difficulties behind nobody else having successfully developed these before."
The study was scheduled to be presented Tuesday at the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists annual meeting in Washington, D.C. Research presented at medical meetings has to be viewed as preliminary because it has not gone through the peer review process required by medical journals.
For more about AIDS, try the U.S. National Library of Medicine.