Abbott Laboratories this morning said it has secured European approval for its anti-HIV therapy, Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir), which should cut pill count and improve treatment compliance without reducing the levels of drug in the body.

Patients will now only need to take four tablets a day, as opposed to six soft gel capsules with the earlier formulation, which can be dosed with or without food and do not require refrigeration. The tablets use Abbott's own Meltrex technology - more commonly used in the production of pipes, tiles and even pasta - and were given the green light in the USA in October last year. The Meltrex technology is specifically designed to improve the availability to the body of poorly-soluble compounds.

More than 700,000 people are infected with HIV in Europe, but keen observers are more concerned with ensuring it becomes available to patients in the developing world, saying they would experience many benefits in taking a medicine that has no dietary restrictions, lower pill burden, and most importantly, storage without refrigeration. Abbott says winning the green light from European regulators was an important step in gaining registration in Africa, Asia and Latin America - “many of which require documentation of European approval as part of the filing process,” it says - and notes it hopes to move forward in these countries as “rapidly as possible.”