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Low antiretroviral drugs supply due to increased use — DoH

THE PHILIPPINE health agency attributed the unstable supply of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) antiretroviral drugs in treatment facilities to a “notable increase” in their use.

A network of groups advocating for the welfare of people living with HIV (PLHIVs) earlier asked the Department of Health (DoH) and the national AIDS council to act on reports about low stocks of antiretroviral drugs, particularly Tenofovir-Lamivudine-Dolutegravir (TLD), a fixed-dose combination used in treating HIV/AIDS.

In a statement released Wednesday night, the DoH said the reported low stocks in designated treatment hubs could be attributed to “unprecedented increase in the use of TLD among PLHIVs prior to the targeted full-scale rollout of the transition from their existing regimens.”

“In accordance with the Philippine TLD Transition Plan, treatment-naive patients as well as those who developed adverse drug reactions in their current regimens (i.e., efavirenz) were prioritized for transition to TLD in 2020 to 2022,” it said.

DoH said there was a notable increase in the uptake of TLD in various facilities “as the PLHIV community became more aware of the promising superiority of TLD over other regimens through word of mouth, social media, learning sessions with support groups, and information dissemination by the treatment facilities.”

The Health agency said “current and the incoming antiretroviral stocks” will be able to cover “all patients” until April 2024.

It said an initial order of 58,000 TLD bottles — procured under the agency’s 2023 national budget — is expected to arrive in the country by the end of June.

“[It] is expected to cover all current patients, estimated new enrollees, and estimated shiftees based on the updated TLD transition plan.”

“Additionally, the DoH will facilitate early procurement for FY (Fiscal Year) 2024 to make sure that there will be no gap in the supplies in the facilities,” DoH said.

The Network Plus Philippines said in a recent statement that it has been getting reports since May that many PLHIVs have been receiving only “one bottle of ARV or even less than that” when refilling their ARV medications in HIV treatment facilities.

On May 31, the Health department confirmed that several regions — including Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Bicol, and Central Visayas — had low stock levels of TLD.

The Philippines registered the fastest-growing HIV epidemic in the Asia-Pacific region, with most local cases occurring among young Filipinos, according to an April statement by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.

It said that since 2010, new infections among young people in the 15 to 24 age group have increased by 216% in the Philippines. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza

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