PEOPLE POWER: Antiretroviral (ARV) drug supply resumes in UP and Bihar

The 27 hours of sit-in against antiretroviral (ARV) drugs stock-out in UP and Bihar by people living with HIV (PLHIV) at the offices of National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) in New Delhi ended when ARV drug supplies were resumed. These ARV drugs were relocated from Gujarat and Delhi and India has no shortage of ARVs for coming couple of months. Fresh ARV supplies are expected within a month, said NACO.

The NACO is also planning to decentralize the supply chain system of ARV drugs to state AIDS control societies (SACS).

Drugs stock-out is a very serious issue, said Naresh Yadav, Uttar Pradesh Network of people living with HIV (UPNP+) as it can brew drug resistance and render the medicines ineffective forcing people to switch on to 2nd line ART regimens and so on. This is not only a public health issue but essentially a right to health and a social justice issue.

Naresh and other PLHIV networks were reporting drug stock-outs since last two months to the authorities and only when their plea went unheard they were forced to stage a peaceful and non-violent sit-in, said Naresh Yadav. It is a positive outcome that ARV drug supplies were resumed today (21 May 2011).

Earlier, in December 2010, PLHIVs across the country reported that they were quickly switched from Nevirapine (NVP) to Efavirenz (EFV) at their respective ART centres, without information. This was attributed to excess stocks of the medicine EFV, which NACO was keen to exhaust before they expired in March 2011.

What causes these drug stock outs and inconsistencies in the supply of medications meant to prolong the life of people living with HIV in India?

Problems in access are often related to inefficiencies such as poor planning, incorrect projections of local requirements, poor distribution and supply at treatment facilities, expiry of medicines as the stock that came in earliest first is not distributed first and corruption.

PLHIV networks are calling on the Health Ministry and NACO to immediately reform the pharmaceutical supply management system for essential medicines as it is an important element in treatment programmes such as TB and AIDS. Issues around ‘drug procurement and supply management’ need to be addressed without delay as it will prevent stock outs and expiry, helping in the process of distributing drugs and supplies to treatment facilities and ultimately to patients.

Bobby Ramakant - CNS

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