Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) welcomes the inclusion of Fixed Dose Combination (FDC) formulations of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs in the national 2012-2014 ARV supply tender, as announced by the South African Department of Health today.
“The inclusion of FDCs is good news for the 1.7 million people currently on ARVs in South Africa, because they now finally have access to simpler and improved treatment options – which significantly cuts down their daily pill burden from 3-5 pills down to just one,” says Dr Gilles Van Cutsem, MSF’s medical coordinator in South Africa and Lesotho.
“Rolling out drugs in FDC formulations will have significantly positive implications to help keep patients adherent to their life-long treatment.”
Simplifying the first line treatment regimen allows for the roll-out of community based interventions such as ART adherence clubs like those in the Western Cape, and for the considering a change in the prevention-of-mother-to-child-transmission policy to PMTCT Options B or B+.
3 million target by 2015
South Africa has committed to the ambitious target of including 3 million people in antiretroviral therapy (ART) by 2015. If this is to be achieved, expanding access must be complimented with health systems running more efficiently and services geared toward to supporting and retaining people on ARV care that ensures treatment adherence.
FDC formulations not only benefit patients but also relieve the burden on the South African health system by simplifying the ordering and monitoring of ARV stocks. With fewer pills to pack, transport and dispense cost reductions are also possible.
“This is an important step in the right direction for South Africa by joining neighbouring states in Southern Africa in a move to simplify and harmonise treatment regimens in a region where the burden of HIV is the highest in the world,” Van Cutsem concludes.
(Press release, November 2012)