South Africa eyes cheaper ARV drugs

15 April 2010

South Africa is to prepare a new tender specification that opens the way for the purchase of cheaper anti-retroviral drugs for the country’s treatment programme – the largest of its kind in the world – in an effort to bring down costs.

Tabling his department’s budget vote in Cape Town this week, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledia said that despite purchasing in such vast quantities, the price paid by the country for the drugs was significantly higher than in any other country.

“This just does not make sense, we must be able to purchase ARVs at the lowest prices as we are the largest consumers of ARVs in the world and must benefit from economies of scale,” Motsoaledi said, adding that if the situation continued, the fiscus would be overburdened.

Lowest possible cost

Motsoaledi said the country must purchase ARVs at the lowest possible cost from whatever source can guarantee the lowest prices, whether inside or outside the country.

He said while local pharmaceutical manufacturers were of the view that such an approach would result in job losses, the government needed to take decisive action in overcoming the challenge that HIV presented.

“I will not compromise on this,” he said, adding that the policy position applied to ARVs only and not other pharmaceutical products.

Increased treatment

More than 1 000 public health facilities are currently providing ARV treatment, following an additional 519 facilities which started providing the treatment as of 1 April this year.

Pregnant women with a CD4 count of 350 or less as well as people co-infected with TB and HIV at a CD4 count of 350 or less are also being provided with treatment.

HIV-positive pregnant women are also receiving dual therapy from 14 weeks of pregnancy and not 28 weeks, as was previously the case, until post delivery.

Source: BuaNews