Government introduces generic first-line drug for HIV patients

The Government has introduced a new and allegedly very effective HIV drug known as Dolutegravir (DTG).

The single pill of DTG that is said to have low resistance compared to the current drugs will substitute for either nevirapine (NVP) or efavirenz (EFV) thereby reducing the pill burden on patients who will be easily transitioned to a triple fixed-dose combination of TDF/3TC/DTG.

This makes Kenya the second country in Sub-Saharan Africa after Botswana to adopt this drug for routine use.

Speaking in Nairobi during the unveiling of the drug on Wednesday, Director of Operations at Unitaid, Robert Matiru said the same drug had been available in developed countries in its original state, but at an expensive price. The replicated version that is being launched today is reasonably affordable, very effective and has fewer side effects for patients, Matiru added.

Matiru said that antiretroviral therapy has in the last 14 years seen over 600,000 deaths averted, adding that in 2000 and back there was an estimated 120,000 HIV-related annual deaths which have now dropped to an estimated 36,000 HIV deaths yearly. He said the number of deaths will continue to drop with the introduction of DTB.

Unitaid is investing 67 million US dollars to address this pressing need in an effort to avoid delays of more than 10 years before new drugs can be introduced in low and middle-income countries, said Matiru.

He added that this intervention also provides a key opportunity to test DTG’s use in routine treatment for the first time and prepare national distribution channels.

Speaking during the function, Ministry of health, Head of National AIDS and STI Control Programme (NASCOP), Dr. Martin Sirengo said that DTG is going to be available free of charge in public hospitals and at subsidized prices or also free in private hospitals.

Sirengo said that DTG is easier to use as one takes a tablet daily and that patients are unlikely to develop resistance.

He said the Ministry of Health will initially provide DTG to 27,000 HIV victims who are unable to tolerate the side effects of efavirenz and other drugs.

The new drug will be introduced in selected health facilities across the country, with the aim of making the drug widely available nationwide later in the year, said Sirengo.

The Director of Medical Services, Dr. Jackson Kioko who was also present said that the Health ministry is proud to have put over 1,045,000 people out of the estimated 1.5 million living with HIV on Antiretroviral (ART) therapy.

He said there has been a 75 percent reduction of new HIV infections among children from a high of 27,000 in 2009 to about 7,000 in 2015.

Source: Kenya News Agency