Activists say shortages of life-saving anti-retroviral drugs is compromising treatment of patients
Delhi Network of Positive People (DNP+), an organisation working for the welfare of people living with HIV and AIDS, has decided to take legal recourse to improve treatment availability for patients. It has sent a legal notice to the Union health secretary, Lov Verma, against regular stock-outs and shortages of life-saving anti-retroviral (ART) drugs at ART centres (facility level) across the country under the National AIDS Programme.
In its notice sent on August 22, DNP+ has mentioned that it has been following closely stock-outs taking place across the country over the past few years and had been requesting the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) to resolve this problem.
The stop gap solution given by NACO has not resulted in continuous and uninterrupted supply of both drugs and diagnostics used for HIV treatment, says DNP+.
In the notice, it highlighted that there have been several reports of shortages of HIV drugs of first line, second line and even pediatric drugs where partial doses of treatment are being provided to patients for a few days, forcing patients to return to ART centres repeatedly in a month.
NACO guidelines say that the patient who is adhering to the treatment should ideally get the medicines at least one month.
DNP+ also alleges that there have been cases where due to unavailability of drugs, drugs are not given at all, making the treatment inefficacious; at times patients are prescribed other drugs (substitute) on ad-hoc basis.
These treatment interruptions may cause drug resistance among people living with HIV and will require them to be put on next line of more costlier regimen (second and third) sooner than required.
In their notice given to the health secretary, DNP+ has asked for undertaking emergency procurement and relocation of stocks to ART centres experiencing stock outs and shortage of ARVS, particularly Mumbai, which is currently facing shortage of first line ARVs. DNP+ has also demanded strengthening and streamlining drug forecasting, procurement and supply chain mechanism to prevent future stockouts.
DNP+ has also demanded setting up an emergency procurement system, applicable for all state governments, and establishing online tracking system to monitor and report stockouts by engaging patient groups and civil society
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