This morning the Department of Health announced the award of the new tender for antiretroviral medicines (ARVs), which will run from January 2013 to December 2014. The release of the tender comes at the time when the world prepares to commemorate the fight against HIV/AIDS. 1 December 2012 marks World AIDS Day, a day in which people globally unite in the fight against HIV/AIDS and to remember the people who have died.
TAC welcomes government's announcement that for the first time 1st line fixed-dose combination ARVs and third line antiretroviral medicines will be procured for use in the public sector. A fixed-dose combination (FDC) combines all 3 medicines used in an ARV regimen into a single tablet. In this tender, government has procured tenofovir ( TDF) 300 mg, Emtricitabine ( FTC) 200 mg and efavirenz EFV) 600 mg FDCs. Patients who receive these tablets will now only have to take one pill once a day.
TAC has been campaigning for the introduction of such FDCs in the public sector for many years.
Clinical studies have shown that FDCs improve patients' treatment adherence, which will improve treatment outcomes and reduce onward transmission of HIV. The benefits of FDCs also extend beyond patients to health workers and health systems. FDCs will make prescribing, dispensing and monitoring treatment easier for nurses and pharmacists.
They will also simplify procurement and supply chain management. This is particularly important given the ongoing challenges with medicines supply, leading to shortages and stock-outs of ARVs and other critical medicines.
We also welcome the announcement that for the first time some 3rd line ARVs will be procured for use in the public sector. Provision of these medicines in the public sector will offer hope for some patients who previously had no other treatment options. TAC is however concerned with the inclusion of Sonke in the tender after their lack of capacity to supply in the previous tender and contributed to the countrywide stock-outs of Tenofovir (TDF). Although Sonke's share of the tender has gone down from 21.9% in the previous tender to 1.5% in this one, TAC believes that Sonke shouldn't have been added into the tender list.
TAC will support the Department of health by continuing to monitor access to essential medicines and report and act on stock-outs. We will also embark on a nationwide communication, education and awareness on the introduction of first line fixed dose combination because it is something new. We will also conduct workshops on the new third line treatment and where is it available. in the public sector .
We are still analysing the tender documents and will publish a more detailed analysis of pricing and implications for access to medicines once this analysis is complete.