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ARV shortage a ‘crisis’

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Stockouts of injectable and oral contraceptives mean that the only contraception available currently is Implanon, the contraceptive implant device

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A NATIONWIDE shortage of second-line antiretroviral (ARV) medication has raised alarm bells in the Northern Cape.

The Stop Stockouts Project (SSP) has pointed out that patients who have become resistant to their antiretroviral medication may have no alternative as a result of the prolonged shortages in second-line medication.

SSP said in a statement this week that it noted with deep concern the continued stockouts of second-line ARVs including lamivudine/abacavir, lamivudine/zidovudine, lopinavir/ritonavir as well as shortages of contraceptives across the country.

The organisation said reports were initially received of a shortage of the second-line regimen from facilities in Ekurhuleni.

“A patient, who did not wish to be identified, reported that there was no alternative in several clinics in her area. She is frantic with worry about developing resistance and her viral load becoming detectable, meaning that she could pass on the virus. In tears, she calls the helpline daily, begging for us to help her,” Kopano Klaas, project co-ordinator at SSP, said.

Since then SSP has received information of stockouts of second-line ARV drugs in other provinces.

Efforts to establish why there are stockouts have been unsuccessful.

In addition, SSP has been informed that the current second-line regimen is in the process of being phased out and will shortly no longer be available as supply has been reduced to 58 000 packs in the new tender.

SSP meanwhile said it was further alarmed by the repeated stockouts of both kinds of injectable as well as oral contraceptives.

“According to our information, only one company was appointed to deliver the injectable contraceptive and due to the late notice of the tender award, the company has not been able to meet the supply backlog,” Klaas said.

“Consequently, provincial depots are required to order through other companies (not on tender) if they need additional injectable, and oral contraceptives. However, this does not appear to be happening. There do not seem to be sufficient suppliers, and many companies have stopped applying for the tender due to late payments and payment defaults.”

Stockouts of injectable and oral contraceptives mean that the only contraception available currently is Implanon, the contraceptive implant device.

The organisation pointed out that the contraceptive stockout crisis was particularly worrying as the National Department of Health geared up to begin the transition from the efavirenz-containing first-line regimen to a dolutegravir-containing first-line regimen.

The SSP urged anyone who has been affected by medicine shortages or stockouts to call the hotline on 084 855 7867.

According to statistics provided by local clinics, there are approximately 4 000 adults and children who are on antiretroviral treatment at clinics in Kimberley.

The Northern Cape Department of Health did not respond to requests for comment.