Call for quality ARV drugs

VIENNA – The fight against HIV-Aids has shifted from providing antiretroviral treatment and scaling up prevention methods to the provision of quality drugs that have less side effects and also increase compliance.

Scientists and Aids activists  are now calling on  policy-makers to shift from providing  quantity ARV  drugs to quality. 

The reason behind this is if  people on  antiretroviral treatment (ART) have less side  effects  there would be fewer  people who utilise health facilities  because of opportunistic  infections and governments   would save money.

At present, most developing  and under-developed  countries, including South Africa,  are still using  stavudine (d4F)  and Zidovudine (AZT). Both  these  combinations of ARV  drugs are associated with  adverse  side effects when  compared to tenofovir disoproxil  fumarate (TDF).

Tienie Stander, chief executive of Health Econometrix   and Outcomes Research, is  one of the people who are   calling out for the phasing out  of d4T and AZT.

“What we   should be providing now is  drugs that will double their   life span and increase compliance because it has less   side effects, if any, depending  of course on the particular   person’s tolerance.”

SA registered TDF in 2007.  Shortly after that a policy  was  formulated to use it in the  public sector but is yet to  be  implemented.

“People on ART are still  being given d4T, which is the most common. We understand that the government is trying to save cost, but using  stavudine and zodovudine  is just not doing that,” Stander  said.