A CRITICAL shortage of Antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) has hit most health facilities around the country.
As a result of the shortage of the life-saving drugs, most patients were being switched to other types while waiting for the recommended ones to be in stock.
A check at most accessed facilities in Lusaka, the University Teaching Hospital (UTH), Kalingalinga, Kamwala, Matero, Ngwerere and Chawama clinics found that most of them had either run low on supply or had completely run out.
Ministry of Health spokesperson Reuben Kamoto Mbewe confirmed that some clinics had run low on Truvada and Neviripine while some had completely run out of the drugs.
“Most ARVs are available in health facilities except for Truvada+Naviripine that have run low in some health centres whilst we have stock-outs in three clinics in Lusaka. The three clinics that have run-out of this drug are Matero, Ngwerere and Chawama,” Dr Mbewe said in a statement in Lusaka yesterday.
He said urgent arrangements had been made to distribute drugs to the three clinics from the district pharmacy stores at Kalingalinga.
He said his ministry was expected to receive 91,500 bottles of Truvada in three weeks time and another 400,000 bottles in September this year with the last consignment of 300,000 bottles of the same drugs in October.
He assured patients not to panic as the supply of Truvada was available in sufficient quantities until the ministry received the next consignment in three weeks’ time and further assured those not on Truvada that other ARVs were available.
Dr Mbewe said in the meantime his ministry had initiated the purchase of 600,000 bottles of Truvada as a stop-gap measure and these were expected to also arrive in the country in September this year.
He attributed the delay to the purchase of the said drugs to logistics in the procurement process and that the manufacturers had also other challenges in acquiring one of the raw materials (Tenofovir) which was vital in the manufacturing process.
He said the shortage of Tenofovir materials had also caused a serious shortage of Truvada on the world market.
Times investigations, however, found that at most ART centres, patients on Truvada and Neviripine were being switched to Atriper with most of them wondering what this switch would mean.
They wondered what would happen when the Truvada was back in stock whether they would again revert back to it and feared that changing of ARVs could have adverse effects on their immune systems.
A memorandum found at the clinics from the Ministry of Health indicated that only a minimum number of people should be left on Neviripine because it would now be used for second line treatment.
Health staff said they were now issuing drugs for up to one month and in some cases for up to two weeks to patients as opposed to the usual three months supply as it was not clear when they would receive the next stocks.