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Relief for HIV patients as more effective drug launched

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People living with HIV and suffer severe side effects and face therapy resistance will now be able to switch to a more convenient drug regimen.

Kenya has became the first country to introduce the generic anti-retroviral therapy (ART) drug Dolutegravir (DTG) on Wednesday that will be available for free in Government clinics.

According to National Aids and STIs Control Programme (Nascop) head Martin Sirengo, DTG has very few side effects compared to the current regimen available in Kenya.

He said HIV patients could take one pill a day, and the body is less likely to develop resistance. “As we launch the DTG, the Ministry of Health recommends it initially for people who are unable to tolerate the side effects of Efavirenz, patients failing on second line, and as a first-line drug for HIV-infected people who inject drugs,” said Dr Sirengo.

He added that the drug would only be made available to 27,000 patients in Kenya, with the backing of NASCOP and international drug-purchasing facility Unitaid. Transition period “They have donated 148,000 packs, which costs about Sh60 million, and that is why we are able to provide the drug in a transition period of about 18 months,” he said.

Sirengo said the Government had laid out expansion programmes that would see those on DTG not return to their previous therapy. “We plan to not only bring others on board but continue with the ones we have because we do not want people to take a cocktail of drugs,” he said.

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In his speech, Director of Medical Services Jackson Kioko said DTG had a higher viral load resistance and worked by slowing the spread of HIV in the body. Quality improvement Dr Kioko said the ministry would focus on quality improvement and introduction of innovative products that offered point-of-care solutions as well as safer and more efficacious medicine.

The drug comes as a 50mg tablet that is not recommended for pregnant women and children who weigh less than 40kg.


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