At an all-day meeting for investors last month in a posh Manhattan event space, executives at Merck couldn’t have been more excited about a new HIV drug, MK-8591. They mentioned it 25 times, calling it “a game changer” and talking up its “remarkable properties.”

Why? If effective, it could be used in a new drug combination that might have fewer side effects, the company says. More excitingly, it might be fashioned into an implant that could be given only once a year to prevent patients at high risk from contracting HIV, a boon to public health.

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