Novel multipurpose pod-intravaginal ring for the prevention of HIV, HSV, and unintended pregnancy: Pharmacokinetic evaluation in a macaque model
Globally, women bear an uneven burden for sexual HIV acquisition. Results from two clinical trials evaluating intravaginal rings (IVRs) delivering the antiretroviral agent dapivirine have shown that protection from HIV infection can be achieved with this modality, but high adherence is essential. Multipurpose prevention technologies (MPTs) can potentially increase product adherence by offering protection against multiple vaginally transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy. Here we describe a coitally independent, long-acting pod-IVR MPT that could potentially prevent HIV and HSV infection as well as unintended pregnancy. The pharmacokinetics of MPT pod-IVRs delivering tenofovir alafenamide hemifumarate (TAF2) to prevent HIV, acyclovir (ACV) to prevent HSV, and etonogestrel (ENG) in combination with ethinyl estradiol (EE), FDA-approved hormonal contraceptives, were evaluated in pigtailed macaques (N = 6) over 35 days. Pod IVRs were exchanged at 14 days with the only modification being lower ENG release rates in the second IVR. Plasma progesterone was monitored weekly to determine the effect of ENG/EE on menstrual cycle. The mean in vivo release rates (mg d-1) for the two formulations over 30 days ranged as follows: TAF2 0.35–0.40; ACV 0.56–0.70; EE 0.03–0.08; ENG (high releasing) 0.63; and ENG (low releasing) 0.05. Mean peak progesterone levels were 4.4 ± 1.8 ng mL-1 prior to IVR insertion and 0.075 ± 0.064 ng mL-1 for 5 weeks after insertion, suggesting that systemic EE/ENG levels were sufficient to suppress menstruation. The TAF2 and ACV release rates and resulting vaginal tissue drug concentrations (medians: TFV, 2.4 ng mg-1; ACV, 0.2 ng mg-1) may be sufficient to protect against HIV and HSV infection, respectively. This proof of principle study demonstrates that MPT-pod IVRs could serve as a potent biomedical prevention tool to protect women’s sexual and reproductive health and may increase adherence to HIV PrEP even among younger high-risk populations.