ARVs: govt delay in rolling out drugs puts children at risk
Three antiretroviral drugs that were phased out more than five years ago are among 29 types of ARVs flagged off to the counties last Thursday.
This is even as thousands of breastfeeding infants born to HIV positive mothers are expected to wait longer for the Nevirapine (NVP) syrup, which is part of the consignment stuck at the Port of Mombasa because of a tax row between the government and USAID.
Consequently, users of ARVs have expressed anxiety over the government’s move to release drugs that had been declared “not fit for use” as earlier as 2010.
Last Thursday, officials flagged off some of the ARVs, which are understood to have been stored at the Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) Embakasi warehouse for years, to 31 counties.
Kemsa’s Customer Service Manager Geoffrey Mwagwi said the drugs released last week had been held at the warehouses for a while.
“We are assuring Kenya patients that the drugs will be at the health facilities in the next few days. The consignments we are flagging off today are supplies that have been with us, old stock which belongs to the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and Global Fund,” he said.
But some users said this was a dangerous move as some of the drugs had become obsolete.
“He has said this is old stock that has been with them, kwanza wametoa mpaka zile dawa walisema wame destroy (they have released drugs which they had said had been destroyed). Some unknowing Kenyans will receive wrong medication. Bora dawa (so long as it’s medicine),” Maureen Murenga, the Executive Director LeanOnMe Foundation said.
She expressed concern that Lamivudine, Zidovudine and Nevirapine were some of the drugs that were phased out “but they kept them.”
Three months stocks
Meanwhile, infants will have to continue using ARVs meant for adults for more than one week before the two-dose regimen arrives.
Kemsa says it will take five days for the paediatric ARVs to be airlifted to its warehouse in Embakasi for distribution to the counties.
“It is being airlifted and probably we should be having it within a week,” Mwagwi said, adding there was sufficient ARVs stocks for the next three months.
The consignment flagged off on Thursday included 29 types of ARVs in 24,800 packs, valued at Sh1.2 billion. They were distributed to 31 counties with high HIV prevalence.
Douglas Onyancha, USAID’s representative at Kemsa in charge of distribution, said Homa Bay is the biggest consumer of the drugs.
He said the standoff between the government and USAID had been sorted out.
“That standoff has been resolved and that’s why we are receiving the commodities. The moment they are received we make sure we distribute them immediately,” he added.
Earlier, Kemsa acting CEO Edward Njoroge said the authority had adequate ARVs stocks.
“Some counties have already received the consignment from Kemsa and I believe this will relieve some pressure from patients,” he said.
Currently, the number of patients receiving ARVs in Kenya is 1.4 million.
“KEMSA continues to operate a safe, secure, reliable and sustainable supply chain management system for improved delivery of healthcare services,” he added.
The commodities distributed include Zidovudine syrup, Abacavir, Atazanavir/Ritonavir, Co-trimoxazole, Duranavir, Dolutegravir, Efavirenz, fluconazole, Lopinavir/Ritonavir, Tenofovir /Emtricitabine (Tdf/Ftc), Tenofovir /Lamivudine/Dolutegravir, Raltegravir, Zidovudine, Zidovudine/Lamivudine and Tenofovir/Lamivudine.