State runs out of AIDS drugs: Demand or Supply Chain issue?

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A shortage of an essential AIDS drugs in the last week of March has revealed shortcomings in the Department of Health’s medicines supply chain management, casting the spotlight on one of the many service delivery problems the pilot sites for National Health Insurance will have to address, BusinessDay reported.

Vital stocks of tenofovir have run dangerously low at clinics and hospitals in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and North West, according to the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society, putting patients at risk of drug resistance.

Gauteng’s Helen Joseph Hospital usually receives 10 000 packs a month, but by Tuesday had received only 300, according to the society’s president, Francesca Conradie.

Tenofovir is the backbone of HIV treatment, and is used by most of South Africa’s 1.6-million patients. The alternative is stavudine, but it has occasionally dangerous side-effects.

The shortage of tenofovir has prompted finger-pointing on all sides, with the department’s deputy director-general for health regulation and compliance, Anban Pillay, saying pharmaceutical companies were struggling to meet demand, and drug makers insisting provincial health departments failed to order stock early enough, after donor-funded supplies ran out at the end of last year.

BusinessDay online - 30 March 2012

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