New HIV drugs to be rolled out

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The government is phasing out a common anti-HIV drug used by 15,000 children and adolescents. The drug known as Nevirapine will no longer be used in Kenya by December.

Acting Health director-general Wekesa Masasabi said the affected group will instead receive a treatment regimen of dolutegravir (DTG) which has fewer side effects.

 “Kenya will phase out Nevirapine by December 2019. All children and adolescents living with HIV currently on Nevirapine-based first-line should be transitioned to an optimal regimen,” said Dr Masasabi in a letter to county Health CECs early this month.

 

Its commonest side-effects include rash, fatigue, headache, vomiting, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and muscle pain, which go away after one month.

Dr Masasabi said the change applies to four-week-old babies up to adolescents aged 15 years.

HIV-positive adults were placed on DTG last year.

“This rapid advice surpasses all other treatment guidelines for children and adolescents less than 15 years living with HIV who are starting treatment or are on the Nevirapine-based regimen,” Dr Masasabi said in the advisory received by the Council of Governors on October 18.

Normally, people living with HIV receive pills to last up to three months, but many facilities are giving pills for shorter periods.

“What we are experiencing is not a shortage but low dosing because some facilities have not procured enough drugs from Kemsa. This is obviously inconveniencing,” Nelson Otuoma said. He leads Network Empowerment of People Living with AIDS in Kenya (Nephak).

Kenya Treatment Access Movement director James Kamau said they had not observed any shortage, but they are monitoring the situation.

“The rapid change led to a shortage in some facilities followed by a quick redistribution of the drugs. But there is no crisis,” Kamau said.

“In future, before such a change, the authorities should first work on supply so that facilities already have enough drugs,” he added.

The change was recommended by the World Health Organisation in July this year.