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Minister allays fears of ARV shortages

By Senzeni Ncube

The Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr Obadiah Moyo says the country has adequate supplies of first-line antiretroviral (ARV) drugs with stocks that will last until the end of the first quarter of 2020.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends a combination of TDF (tenofovir) either 3Tc (lamivudine) or FTC (emtricitabine) and EFV (efavirenz) as the first line treatment.

This follows reports that UNAIDS official was recently in the country to assess the situation on the ground amid reports of a moderate shortage of anti-retroviral drugs.

However, speaking in parliament, Wednesday, Minister Moyo allayed any fears saying the country was in a safe zone when it comes to ARV drugs.

“With regards to drugs we are in the safe zone, I do not want people to panic unnecessarily. The issue which was of concern was that of the costs and that has since been addressed,” he said.

The minister said there is a need to directly work with India, who now supply more than 80 percent of the country`s drugs.

“Eighty percent of our medicines come from India, at the same time we could also benefit by working as an African or Southern Africa group to bring medicines into Southern Africa by buying in bulk,” the minister said.

Minister Moyo said this move will make drugs cheaper upon arrival.

“This will make sure that it will be cheaper on arrival and at the same time the issue regarding special active pharmaceutical ingredients,” he said.

The minister said the country can also utilise China in buying active ingredients.

“You know, the Indians are also buying from China these active ingredients, so we can also buy them from China.

“For the benefit of our manufacturers, it will be much cheaper because currently, they are just buying raw materials and those raw materials cost a lot of money because they have to be mixed but if we buy the active pharmaceutical ingredients, we will be saving a lot of money and currency”.

He said there was a need for the country to adopt a primary health care initiative to ensure that there are “fully functional clinics and availability and easily accessible clinics”.

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