The generic version of the most advanced drug against HIV has been introduced in Kenya, a first in Africa where more than 25 million have the disease, an NGO,Unitaid,said on Wednesday.
The drug will also be rolled out in Nigeria and Uganda this year according to a statement issued by the organisation.
It stated, “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 FDC, which would include tenofovir, lamivudine and DTG, is expected to significantly simplify treatment for people living with HIV.”
The drug, Dolutegravir is the anti-retroviral drug of choice for those living with HIV in developed countries, but its high price has put it out of reach for most struggling with the disease in Africa.
“The generic DTG has two advantages: on the one hand, it is very good from a pharmaceutical point of view. On the others, it is much cheaper,” said Robert Matiru of Unitaid, which works to reduce the costs of medicines treating AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria.
He described the drug as “the most effective HIV treatment currently on the market.”
A box of 30 pills of DTG, which lasts a month, costs between $25 and $50 euros. The generic version only costs four.
Kenya has already started rolling out the new drug, which will initially be provided for free to 27,000 people living with HIV who are intolerant to the side effects of the current best drug used in the country.
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 Matiru.
Around 37 million people live with HIV/AIDS around the world, 70 per cent of them in Africa, according to 2015 statistics from the World Health Organisation.
Unitaid stated that it had invested $ 67 million to ensure that new drugs could be introduced in low- and middle-income countries without having to wait for 10 years.
This catalytic intervention also provides a key opportunity to test DTG’s use in routine treatment for the first time and prepare national distribution channels.