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Short supply of anti-HIV drugs hits many

House panel directs NACO to take serious note of lapses, asks to launch probe

Hundreds of HIV/AIDS patients, including children, receiving anti-HIV medicine from government outlets found themselves in a precarious position a few months ago after the outlets went out of stock for first and second line drugs increasing the risks for the HIV positives.

Reports from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra and Manipur attributed the crisis to poor and inefficient planning—medicines that came first were not distributed first—as well as poor supply chain and corruption.

The department of AIDS control under the Union Health Ministry wanted to sweep the entire episode under the carpet. But networks of people living with HIV/AIDS brought it to the notice of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health, which praised the network’s role as a monitor of HIV programme and came down heavily on the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO).

Ministry challenged

NACO has been directed by the House panel to “take a more serious note of such lapses” and launch a probe to see how the supply interruption took place because such “gaps in supply only add to drug resistance apart from obvious inconvenience.” There are 14.86 lakh people living with HIV/AIDS registered in anti-retroviral treatment centres across the country, out of which 486,173 are being given free antiretroviral therapy.

The more expensive second line drugs are being given to 4,208 AIDS patients.
The panel challenged the health ministry’s stand of expanding the second line treatment to more AIDS patients suffering from a complicated form of the disease and giving out more costly third line treatment. The government is not in favour of such expansion as it is likely to bleed the exchequer heavily.

Simplify barriers

“Cost alone should not be the only criterion. Failure to procure the third line drugs will have future public health complications as people living with HIV could develop a very serious resistance to HIV, which could prove costly,” the panel said in its report tabled recently. The committee asked the government to simplify the “economic and bureaucratic barriers” mentioned in the eligibility criterion for enrolling in the government programme to receive first and second line drugs free.

Patient groups have approached the Supreme Court as well for simplification of the procedure which eventually will lead to expansion of the free HIV treatment programme. “These barriers must not be created for patients who will need third line medicines. The AIDS control programme must start planning for antiretroviral therapy Centres of Excellence to take in patients who failed to the second line treatment,” it said.

NACO also received flak for its failure in phasing out anti-HIV medicine Stavudine despite the World Health Organisation’s July 2010 recommendation of eliminating the medicine from HIV/AIDS programme due to its toxicity and resultant side effects like sunken cheeks and buffalo humps.

 

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Posted by on May 7 2012. Filed under Top Stories. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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