India: Delayed ART procurement saw 150,000 PLHIV at risk of missing treatment
A delayed tendering process for antiretroviral drugs by the Indian National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) meant that 150,000 people living with HIV (PLHIV) in India were at risk of being without antiretroviral treatment (ART) for October. This is a continuation of the drugs crisis AVERT reported on last month, which saw NACO having issues procuring drugs. Recently, a coalition of Indian pharmaceutical companies, the World Health Organisation (WHO), Medicine San Frontier (MSF) and others have come together to fill the gap of missing drugs.
According to NACO, India needs 7.2 million antiretroviral drugs each month. Some Indian pharmaceutical companies have called an emergency situation, halting the production of other drugs to meet the immediate demand for the antiretroviral drugs. In order to top off the reduced supply, drugs have been donated by MSF, and other global health organisations. WHO are working closely with the Indian health ministry to ensure that the immediate stock-outs are filled and to work on a more long-term plan to ensure that this does not happen again.
India’s NACO provides free antiretroviral treatment to over one third of the 2.1 million PLHIV India. The drug shortage in this instance was the result of a delayed tendering process in the government’s procurement of the drugs meant that sign-off of the drug combination tenofovir/lamivudine hadn’t happened until mid September. The drug companies needed a lead-time of two months to produce the drugs, leaving some patients at risk of being without their ART for the past two months. The stock outs have been an embarrassment to the newly elected Indian government of Narendra Modi, who had pledged to reduce bureaucracy around ART procurement.