Strawberry-flavored HIV medicine could save thousands of children

Jon Fingas
Associate Editor
Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative

There are roughly 80,000 babies and toddlers who die of AIDS every year, and that's partly due to the difficulty of administering the medicine. It can be extremely difficult for a toddler to swallow a pill or a foul-tasting syrup with alcohol. Cipla may have a much better solution. It's introducing a new anti-HIV drug, Quadrimune, whose strawberry-flavored granules are much easier to swallow. While it comes in capsules, parents can make it more palatable by sprinkling the contents on soft food or in drinks.

The medicine includes four recommended antiretroviral drugs and doesn't require refrigeration -- important in Africa, where warm temperatures and inconsistent electricity are frequently issues.

Crucially, it's relatively inexpensive. Quadrimune will cost less than $1 per day for a child between 20 to 30 pounds, and 50 cents per day for younger children. While that would still be a stiff price for many families affected by HIV (it might even exceed their yearly income), that combined with the easy-to-swallow design could put the medicine within reach of many more people and save thousands of lives.

The FDA is reviewing Quadrimune and could tentatively approve it in 2020. It's not as necessary in the US when children are less likely to contract HIV from their mothers, but that approval could be a key step to wider distribution. It's safe to say that it'll be eagerly anticipated. Unless there's a cure for HIV, medication like this could be vital to halting the viruses' spread.