Pretoria — As from April next year, patients who are on ARV treatment will no longer have to take three tablets but only need one tablet per day.
This was announced by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi during a media briefing to announce a tender award for a single dose of the triple combination of tenofovir, entricitabine and efavirenz.
Announcing a R5.9 billion tender on Thursday, Dr Motsoaledi noted that South Africa has managed to reduce the cost of the tender by 38%, a massive saving of R2.2 billion.
The tender has been awarded to Aspen Pharmacare, Cipla Medpro and Mylan Pharmaceuticals. The price of the three-in-one combination is R89.37, which Dr Motsoaledi described as now the world's lowest priced for this product.
"This new tender has moved from an original cost of R8.1 billion to R5.9 billion for two years, this savings means we can treat more patients with the same budget," Dr Motsoaledi said.
Dr Motsoaledi said from April 2013, all pregnant women, who are HIV positive will be given the single dose combination during pregnancy and breast feeding, regardless of their CD4 count.
At least 80% of patients who are on ARV treatment will also from April be able to switch to the single dose combination, but Dr Motsoaledi noted that those who can't be switched for any reason can still take individual ARV drugs.
Highlighting the benefits of the combination for patients, Dr Motsoaledi said it had major benefits in terms of compliance. Logistics and storage were reduced as well as it will have fewer side effects.
"The fixed dose combination brings with it an additional extraordinary benefit, the combination is more effective than dual therapy and has fewer side effects for the pregnant mother, in addition to its' convenient dosage regimen."
The department will also be keeping a register of the patients so they can monitor their progress and check for side effects.
The drugs will be available in all 3000 health facilities, said Dr Motsoaledi, who assured no more delays in supply, as experienced in the past, which was due to the problems they had with the previous supplier.
"We have asked the suppliers to give us their commitment on this and all three of them have done so."
On whether the combination will not harm mothers with a high CD 4 count, Dr Francesca Conradie, Clinical Advisor for TB/HIV at the Wits University's Clinical HIV Research Unit assured that it would not harm the mothers in any way.
"Simplification of the tablets is so much easier for mothers and it will lead to better results," said Dr Conradie.
UNAIDS Country Coordinator, Dr Catherine Sozi commended South Africa for being able to access the effective drugs at a small price.
"The reduction in cost is way beyond what we've hoped for," said Sozi.