Shortage of antiretroviral drug affects HIV patientsOfficial at the national AIDS centre says the shortage was caused due to an ‘unexpected rise’ in number of patients needing Dolutegravir therapy.
Shortage of Dolutegravir, an antiretroviral medicine for treatment of HIV infection, has affected many HIV patients in the country.
There are 31,020 HIV patients throughout the country, according to the National Centre for AIDS and STD Control.
Dolutegravir is a second-generation medicine which doctors in Nepal prescribe to HIV patients in case the first line of drugs fail to work.
Dr Taranath Pokhrel, the centre’s director, told the Post that the shortage was partly due to an unexpected rise in the number of HIV patients needing Dolutegravir therapy.
The number of HIV patients taking Dolutegravir, according to the centre, rose to 29 from 5 in the last one year.
“We ran out of the drug because we had a supply for only five patients,” said Pokhrel.
Srijana is one of the many HIV patients hit by Dolutegravir shortage.
She has been getting her prescription from Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital in Teku, Kathmandu. For this, she has to journey from her hometown in Nawalparasi to the Capital city every two months.
When Srijana arrived in Kathmandu to get her prescription refilled recently, she was given a dose to last only five days.
“I cannot afford to come to the Capital every week. I have two small children at home,” the 35-year-old said.
Pokhrel, the centre’s director, said the Department of Health Services was working towards addressing the drug shortage.
“Dolutegravir is not available in local market, so we have initiated the process to address the drug shortage ,”said Pokhrel.
He added that Global Fund, an organisation working towards ending AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria as epidemics, was going to supply the drug this year.The government will start purchasing the medicine from next year onwards.
CD 4 count service halted for last six months
Hundreds of HIV patients have been deprived of CD 4 count service after the CD4 counting machine at National Public Health Laboratory broke down six months ago. CD4 count is a test to measure the number of CD4 cells-a type of white blood cell called T-cells-that move throughout the body to find and destroy bacteria, viruses, and other invading germs.CD4 count is a must to start antiretroviral medicines for people living with HIV and to check the effectiveness of the medicines they are taking.An HIV patient must undergo a CD4 test for the doctor to be able to prescribe antiretroviral medicines.“Doctors ask us to conduct CD4 test, but the service has not been available for months now,” Dilip Bhusal, a volunteer of National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS in Nepal, told the Post. He said up to 100 people visit the laboratory daily for CD 4 count service.