By Michael Gwarisa
THE World Health Organisation (WHO) is in the process of engaging Pharmaceutical and drug manufacturing companies to negotiate on the pricing of second line Anti Retro-viral drugs to assist Zimbabwe and other struggling third world countries to ensure they access the lifesaving drugs at affordable prices.
The development come in the midst of reports that Zimbabwe is experiencing massive second line Abacavir ARV drug stock-outs, putting more than 30 000 lives at risk of developing HIV drug resistance owing to discontinued uptake of ARVs.
Briefing Journalists in the capital, WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti said the second line drugs were too expensive and most African countries were still far from financing their healthcare and HIV interventions at a domestic level.
“Its is true that second line drugs are extremely expensive, and you will recall that one of the areas in which there was a lot of work that needed to be done about a decade ago was, one to negotiate with the Pharmaceutical companies that are producing the drugs and secondly to work on what is called market development so that we quantify the quantities of these drugs that are going to be needed and identify the funders, this could be done on scale and the cost of the drugs would go down.
“One of the things that WHO would need to do in order to address the shortage of these second line treatment is something similar. So we will look at what is the cost, what is the need for these drugs can be the sources of funding. So we will have to work on affordability and negotiating with the Pharmaceutical companies that have the patents for these drugs and secondly we need to work with Global fund and other partners to ensure there is a market where these drugs are needed,” said Dr Moeti.
She also said the issue of drug resistance was of big concern generally not only for HIV but also multi-drug resistance TB, and a general worry about Antimicrobial resistance.
“There is a worrying fact that research and development of new drugs is not keeping up with the emerging resistance and when these drugs are available, they are actually costly.
“First of all, one of our key interventions is to try to limit the spread of HIV drug resistance, so its really about improving the quality of the programs so that it improves compliance of patients because it emerges when people are not consistent in taking their treatment, the level of the drugs in the blood goes down and then drug resistance virus in this case emerges,’ said Dr Moeti.
She said that one of the key interventions which need to be looked at as improve quality of programs so that people comply with their treatment, they don’t skip their treatment and they limit the emergence of drug resistance.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe will be hosting the 67th session WHO Regional Committee for Africa in the resort town of Victoria Falls.