, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 29 – The Ministry of Health has rolled out a new ARV first-line drug that can improve and prolong lives of thousands of people living with HIV who suffer severe side effects and resistance to treatment.
The new drug Dolutegravir (DTG), a generic version will first be administered to 27,000 patients in Kenya before being rolled out in Uganda and Nigeria later this year.
“The drug will be introduced in select health facilities across the country, with the aim of making the drug widely available nationwide later in the year,” said Nascop Head Martin Sirengo.
“New regimes including DTG offer great potential for better and less costly HIV treatment, said Robert Matiru of UNITAID.
“Through this catalytic work, we are significantly reducing the time it takes for people living with HIV in countries like Kenya to access the latest ARV s on the market. These are important developments as we move towards HIV treatment for all in need.”
Kenya is the first country to introduce the more affordable generic version of DTG. The pack will be selling at 4 dollars with the originator version introduced by Botswana costing roughly 50 dollars.
“A box of 30 pills of DTG, which lasts a month, costs between $25 (21 euros) and $50. The generic version only costs $4,” said Matiru.
This represents a significant saving in terms of the cost by moving from an originator to a generic version of the product.
“DTG as a product compared to others is cheaper to manufacture. When we take this product to scale not just in Kenya but other countries and achieve economies of scale in production, there will be incredible savings to health programs,” said Matiru.
Nigeria and Uganda will also be introducing DTG later this year as part of the project, in all cases laying the groundwork for accelerating uptake of the three in one fixed dose combination that would be made available by 2018. The fixed dose combination, which would include Tenefovir, Lamivudine and DTG is expected to significantly simplify treatment for people living with HIV.
“The drug is easier to take than those currently on the market, requiring only one pill a day, causing fewer side effects, and patients are less likely to develop resistance,” said Sirengo.
More than 18 million people are on life-long HIV treatment worldwide, but an almost equal number do not have access to treatment yet.
Approximately 36.7 million people are living with HIV according to statistics by World Health Organization (WHO) at the end of 2015. Of these, 1.8 million were children less than 15 years old.