News Feature | September 16, 2014

India Faces Crisis Shortage Of HIV/AIDS Treatments

By Lori Clapper

Hundreds of thousands of HIV/AIDS patients in India may not be getting the life-saving drugs they need because of delays in the HIV/AIDS medication procurement process. Now, the country, which is home to the third largest number of AIDS patients in the world, faces a drug shortage.

In fact, several government-run clinics in India report that they have already run out of certain HIV/AIDS medicines, including nevirapine, which prevents mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Unfortunately, the future looks grim for other medical providers, which are expected to run out of an adult med tenofovir-lamivudine combination, as well as a lopinavir-ritonavir combination syrup administered to children, according to The Telegraph.

It’s estimated that the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO), an organization that procures the drugs from manufacturers and distributes them to Indian healthcare providers, will need six million fixed dose combination tablets with tenofovir-300mg and lamivudine-300mg to prevent a complete shortage.

"The supply chain has broken down, tenders have not been filled. As a result there are not enough drugs in the program to meet the needs of the people. Patients have been told to fend for themselves," Leena Menghaney, an activist with the medical charity Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF), said.

She also says that there should be no reason why drug companies shouldn’t receive payment from the government because margins are miniscule, but adds that some drug makers’ decisions to boycott the distributions programs are not the way to improve the situation.

To help avoid a nationwide crisis, the Delhi Network of Positive People sent a legal notice to the health ministry on August 22, 2014, asking for emergency procurement and supply of the drugs at government centers, as well as improved drug forecasting and the establishment of an emergency procurement system for all state governments, the Livemint reported.

Out of 2.1 million HIV/AIDS patients in India, an estimated 750,000 people depend on the free distribution of drugs through government-run centers, according to NACO. Due to the present delays, if a pharmaceutical company would now be asked to supply a month’s supply (200 thousand packs), it will still take time to implement the bulk drug procurement process and to manufacture the drugs.