750,000 affected as HIV/Aids drugs run out

Tuesday November 10 2015

By Emmanuel Ainebyoona

Kampala- More than 750,000 patients on HIV/Aids treatment have been affected by a stockout of drug combinations in government health facilities, prompting them to develop adverse side effects after being switched onto new combinations.

According to the Ministry of Health Drug Stock Status report prepared by the pharmacy department, the stock levels for the adult formulations are low at health facilities.
For example, Efavirez600mg/Tenefovir/lamivudine and Lopinavir/ritonavir200/50mg have run out in most of the centres. Ms Proscia Nanyanzi, who has been on treatment since 2003, said: “The stock out of ARVs has interrupted my treatment regimens and this worries me so much. I was on Abacavir and Tenofovir but when I went to refill, I was told my treatment regime was out of stock,” added Ms Nanyanzi.

Ms Nanyanzi is currently struggling to cope with the new drug combination and its side effects such as nausea, dizziness and strange dreams.
Diana, 24, another patient, said she has been given antiretroviral drugs in lesser portions and this is likely to affect her viral load count which had reached a non-detectable level.

Yesterday, while launching, the campaign in Kampala code-named ‘Drug Stock out Kills! Stop it,’ Mr Moses Dombo, the chief of party for advocacy for health at PATH, said adult patients have been forced to take drugs like Neverapine meant for children.
“You now find a patient taking more than eight pills yet they would have taken one or two,” Mr Dombo said.

“Lack of TB drugs, Neverapine Syrup has been reported at Atiak Health Centre in Amuru, Lacor hospital in Gulu, and in Agago District for two months between September and October this year,” said Ms Stella Kentutsi, the executive director NAFOPHANU.

Commenting on the drug stockout, the Permanent Secretary Ministry of Health, Dr Asuman Lukwago, said drugs are available but the challenge emerges from distribution by the National Medical Stores (NMS).

“We are going to have a discussion with NMS to have issues around distribution addressed because some places are overstocked while others are understocked thus the various shortages being experienced,” said Dr Lukwago.

Due to the stock out of Essential HIV/Aids and Tuberculosis drugs, some Civil Society Organisations led by PATH and the National Forum of People Living with HIV/Aids Networks in Uganda (NAFOPHANU), are calling upon government to restore sufficient drug stocks through increased funding.

“This campaign requires government to consider doubling the annual budget for HIV/Aids and TB drugs from the current Shs90 billion to Shs180 billion to avert the current shortage,” said Dr Emmanuel Mugisha, the country director PATH Uganda.

When contacted, NMS spokersperson Dan Kimosho said: “Our data shows we have ARVs in all their combinations in stock for the next two months. The challenge is because of high patient enrollment onto the treatment yet we had planned for the entire financial year. Doses can only go up to end of December not June,” said Mr Kimosho.