Yale researchers have discovered the extended-release naltrexone, commonly known as Vivitrol may help maintain or improve suppression of HIV among individuals at risk for relapse receiving HIV antiretroviral treatment. The findings were part of a study of inmates in Connecticut who suffered from co-occurring HIV and alcohol use disorder (AUD). The study measured results in 100 participants who, upon release from incarceration, were either given a placebo or extended-release naltrexone. Researchers then followed participants for six months and found that those who were given the naltrexone were more likely to have either maintained or improved HIV suppression. The findings were published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
Vivitrol is an extended-release form of naltrexone administered through injections commonly used to treat alcohol use disorder and opioid withdrawal. It is the first and only injectable extended-release opioid maintenance drug, unlike buprenorphine (Suboxone) and methadone, which are usually taken orally. While the study focused exclusively on individuals with alcohol use disorder, naltrexone is an increasingly common asset in medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for opioid addiction. The drug has been particularly effective in helping patients achieve long-term abstinence from heroin and prescription painkillers. Extended-release naltrexone gradually releases sufficient naltrexone to block the euphoric effects of opioids for approximately one month after injection.
While great strides have been made in HIV research in recent years, the virus still continues to be a pervasive public health issue, affecting around 1.1 million Americans. About 15 percent of people ages 13 and older with HIV don’t know they have it. An estimated 39,782 Americans were newly diagnosed with HIV in 2016. In that same year, 18,160 individuals living with HIV developed stage-3 HIV, or AIDS. Researchers are hopeful that extended-release naltrexone can improve suppression rates and make it easier for those living with HIV to better manage their illness and improve their quality of life.