As government is doing its best to ensure a steady availability of all HIV drugs for the benefit of HIV citizens of South Africa, efforts are also being taken to ensure that government purchases these drugs at an affordable rate.
Scientists have introduced three now antiretroviral medicines for treating people with HIV but whats more interesting is the idea that these new HIV drugs are better improved and at the same time, will save middle-income countries like south Africa, up to $3-billion by the end of 2025.
This was revealed at the world’s premier HIV science meeting, the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) by Polly Clayden for GROUNDUP.
Due to the high cost of these HIV drugs, SA’s health department is currently able to uphold the treatment of HIV patients with once-daily pill containing three drugs: tenofovir, emtricitabine (better known as FTC) and efavirenz. But with these new drugs, it is believed that patients will be better taken care of and the department on its part would be able to save more funds.
Efavirenz is currently taken at a dose of 600mg per day, but research shows it can be taken at 400mg per day and many patients report psychological side effects of taking the drug such as bad dreams and anxiety that are not reported with dolutegravir.
The new drug, Dolutegravir, has been shown to be better at suppressing HIV than efavirenz, and is ultimately expected to replace efavirenz in the standard drug regimen for new patients.
It was recently approved in the US and Europe. It was also approved in South Africa a few weeks ago and is expected to be available in the private sector in June or July.
More so, the introduction of a new version of tenofovir, better known by its scientific name tenofovir alafenamide fumarate (TAF), seems better than the currently used tenofovir disoproxil fumarate in that it requires a much lower dose and is much cheaper to mass produce.
TAF is said to be at an advanced stage of development and, in contrast to dolutegravir and low-dose efavirenz which could be available in South Africa soon.
Though it may likely take a couple of years before TAF reaches patients here, it is likely there will be a new once-daily pill containing TAF, FTC and dolutegravir.
Following estimates made at the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) on how these drugs will save more money, lower-dose version of efavirenz would reach 25% of market share in 2021, and then dolutegravir would take over. Of the $3-billion in savings to programmes, the bulk, $1.8-billion, comes from the introduction of TAF.
The introduction of these drugs, besides being better for patients, will enable programmes to put more people on treatment.