Injectable long-acting human immunodeficiency virus antiretroviral prodrugs with improved pharmacokinetic profiles

Int J Pharm. 2018 Dec 1;552(1-2):371-377. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpharm.2018.10.017. Epub 2018 Oct 8.


While highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has significantly reduced mortality rates in patients with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), its efficacy may be impeded by emergence of drug resistance caused by lack of patient adherence. A therapeutic strategy that requires infrequent drug administration as a result of sustained release of antiretroviral drugs would put less burden on the patient. Long-acting antiretroviral prodrugs for HIV therapy were synthesized through modification of the active drugs, emtricitabine (FTC) and elvitegravir (EVG), with docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in one-step, one-pot, high-yielding reactions. The in vitro drug release profiles of these synthetic conjugates demonstrated sustained and controlled release of the active drug over a period of 3-4 weeks attributable to the hydrolysis of the chemical linker in conjunction with the hydrophilicity of the parent drug. Both conjugates exhibited superior antiviral activities in tissue culture models of HIV replication as compared to those of the free drugs, strengthening their role as potent prodrugs for HIV therapy. Pharmacokinetic analysis in CD1 mice further confirmed the long-acting aspect of these conjugates with released drug concentrations in plasma detected at their respective IC90/IC95 values over a period of 2 weeks and discernable amounts of active drug even at 6 weeks. Our findings suggest that the injectable small molecule conjugates could be used as long-acting controlled release of FTC and EVG in attempts to mitigate adherence-related HIV resistance.

Keywords: Antiretroviral therapy; Elvitegravir; Emtricitabine; Lipid drug conjugate; Sustained release formulations.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-HIV Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-HIV Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-HIV Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Cell Line
  • Delayed-Action Preparations / administration & dosage
  • Delayed-Action Preparations / chemistry
  • Delayed-Action Preparations / pharmacokinetics
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / administration & dosage*
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / chemistry
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / pharmacokinetics
  • Drug Liberation
  • Emtricitabine / administration & dosage*
  • Emtricitabine / chemistry
  • Emtricitabine / pharmacokinetics
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intramuscular
  • Mice
  • Prodrugs / administration & dosage*
  • Prodrugs / chemistry
  • Prodrugs / pharmacokinetics
  • Quinolones / administration & dosage*
  • Quinolones / chemistry
  • Quinolones / pharmacokinetics


  • Anti-HIV Agents
  • Delayed-Action Preparations
  • Prodrugs
  • Quinolones
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • elvitegravir
  • Emtricitabine