FDA Expands Use of HIV Drug to Young Children

Lucy Hicks


October 18, 2021

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved an expanded indication of the antiretroviral medication Biktarvy for younger children living with HIV. The new lower dose is approved for children weighing from at least 14 kg (30 pounds) to 25 kg (55 pounds) who are virologically suppressed or new to antiretroviral therapy.

"Children living with HIV are in need of effective and accessible formulations of antiretroviral therapy," said Merdad Parsey, MD, PhD, chief medical officer of Gilead Sciences, the company that produces Biktarvy, in a press release. "The New Drug Application approval is an important step in fulfilling Gilead's commitment to a goal of bringing pediatric formulations of Biktarvy to children living with HIV around the world," he said.

Although advances in treatment for pregnant women with HIV have lowered the likelihood of perinatal HIV transmission, pediatric HIV remains a global public health challenge. In 2020, about 1.7 million children younger than 15 years were living with HIV worldwide; 850 children become infected every day.

The approval, announced October 18, expands the use of Biktarvy to younger children. The medication was originally approved in February 2018 for treatment-naive or virologically suppressed adults. In June 2019, the FDA approved updating of the label to include pediatric patients weighing at least 25 kg. This new lower dose of Biktarvy is for a three-drug combo containing bictegravir 30 mg, emtricitabine 120 mg, and tenofovir alafenamide 15 mg. It is given once a day in tablet form.

The most recent expanded indication was based on data from an open-label, single-arm study that included 22 virologically suppressed children living with HIV. After switching to Biktarvy, 91% of participants (20 of 22) remained virologically suppressed at 24 weeks. HIV-1 RNA was not collected for two patients because of "pandemic-related study disruption," the press release said.

"As children living with HIV will be on therapy for the foreseeable future and from such a young age, there are a number of factors I weigh as a clinician when prescribing the right HIV treatment option to my pediatric patients," said Carina Rodriguez, MD, the division chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of South Florida, who was one of the study investigators. "Finding an efficacious treatment option is paramount, but tolerability and safety are keys to ensuring treatment success. With this expanded approval, clinicians can add Biktarvy to their arsenal of options to help ensure these children maintain virologic suppression with a treatment option that makes sense for them."

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