Gilead, Merck co-developing long-acting HIV treatment

Gilead and Merck are developing a long-acting treatment that combines their experimental HIV drugs, the rival drugmakers announced March 15.

The two-drug treatment regimen combines Gilead’s investigational capsid inhibitor, lenacapavir, and Merck’s investigational nucleoside reverse transcriptase translocation inhibitor, islatravir. 

Islatravir and lenacapavir are both in late-stage clinical trials. Gilead and Merck have reported that both drugs have long half-lives and have demonstrated activity at low dosages in clinical studies.

The drugmakers expect to conduct the first clinical studies for the treatment as an oral combination in the second half of 2021 and as an injectable combination in 2022.

Gilead will cover 60 percent of global development and commercialization costs, and Merck will cover 40 percent. 

The drugmakers will equally share the treatment's sales until the oral version's revenue reaches $2 billion and the injectable version’s revenue reaches $3.5 billion. After these milestones, Gilead will receive 65 percent of the treatment's revenue, and Merck will receive 35 percent.

With the treatment, the drugmakers hope to develop an option that allows for less frequent dosing to replace HIV patients' current antiretroviral regimen, which requires them to take multiple pills several times a day, cautiously scheduled around meals.

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