Sunlenca is a medicine used to treat HIV infection in adults. It is used in treatment when the HIV virus is resistant to other treatments such as Antiretroviral Therapy (ART). Unlike other HIV treatments whose medicine is taken daily, Sunlenca is administered less frequently.
Sunlenca is in a new class of drugs called capsid inhibitors.
It is currently an approved drug in the European Union and USA but not in Zimbabwe yet. Sunlenca contains an active substance called lenacapavir and so the name lenacapavir is used as the international non-proprietary or common name or the medicine.
Sunlenca Approval in Zimbabwe
Sunlenca has not yet been approved by Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe.
In January 2023 the Director of Aids and Tuberculosis in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Dr Owen Mugurungi said he welcomed Sunlenca as it would improve adherence to treatment.
You will find out that daily intake of ARVs or any other drugs is associated with defaulting as pill fatigue grows for some people. There are also cases of people missing doses so the development of drugs that are taken a few times will greatly improve adherence.
How Sunlenca is taken
Sunlenca is given in combination with other antiretroviral drugs.
Both oral tablet forms of Sunlenca and an injectable solution are available. On days 1, 2, and 8 of the treatment, Sunlenca tablets are consumed. Following that, patients receive maintenance therapy consisting of Sunlenca injections every 26 weeks for one week.
The patient must agree to follow the injection schedule before the doctor may begin treatment, and the doctor should explain why this is crucial. The regimen of treatments assists in keeping the infection under control. If a patient misses doses of the medication, virus levels may rise or the virus may develop resistance to the medication. If Sunlenca therapy is discontinued, another therapy to suppress the virus must be initiated.
How Sunlenca works
Lenacapavir, the active ingredient of Sunlenca, binds to the proteins that make up the HIV-1 virus's outer layer (the capsid). Sunlenca disrupts various processes required for the virus to replicate by attaching to these proteins. This lowers and maintains a low level of HIV in the blood. Sunlenca can prevent immune system damage and the emergence of infections and disorders linked to AIDS, but it does not treat HIV infection or AIDS.
Research results on Sunlenca benefits
According to Europeans Medicines Agency, in a major research enrolling adults who had already tried various treatments and who did not respond or were no longer responding to the majority of the drugs used to control HIV-1 infection, sunlenca was successful at lowering the amount of HIV-1 virus in the blood (viral load). Patients received Sunlenca or a placebo (a dummy treatment) in addition to their regular HIV medications during the first two weeks of the research. After this period of time, 87.5% (21 out of 24) of the subjects who received Sunlenca had a significant reduction in viral load, as opposed to 16.7% (2 out of 12) of the people who received a placebo.
All 36 patients had maintenance injections every 26 weeks, and the 12 patients who initially received placebo also received Sunlenca. After 26 weeks of treatment, 80.6% (29 out of 36) of patients had viral loads below 50 copies per milliliter, and after 52 weeks of treatment, 83.3% (30 out of 36) of patients had viral loads below this threshold, which is regarded as a marker for long-lasting clinical and immunological improvements.
What are the Sunlenca side effects
According to drug.com the most common Sunlenca side effects are nausea and reactions in the area that has been injected (injection site reactions.)
Sunlenca may cause serious side effects such as:
- Changes in your immune system (called Immune Reconstitution Syndrome) which can happen when you start taking HIV-1 medicines.
- Injection site reactions which may include swelling, pain, redness, skin hardening, small mass or lump, and itching.
- Long-acting Injectable Cabotegravir (CAB-LA)