Crucial HIV drug in short supply

June 28, 2011

Published: 2011/06/28 06:39:26 AM

CAPE TOWN — US pharmaceutical company Bristol Meyers Squibb confirmed doctors’ reports of a widespread shortage in South African public hospitals of its antifungal drug amphotericin B, branded as Fungizone.

It is the drug of choice for treating cryptococcal meningitis, as alternatives are less effective or unaffordable to the state. There are no generic versions available in SA.

Drug shortages like this are one of the reasons the government is keen to establish a local pharmaceutical manufacturing base .

The problem is not unique to SA : the US is experiencing shortages of dozens of drugs, according to a list published online by the American Society of Health System Pharmacists.

The US government recently put billions of dollars into re- establishing local vaccine production capacity after it realised it no longer had the capacity to make jabs for anthrax .

Cryptococcal meningitis primarily affects people with advanced HIV. About 7000 cases were reported last year to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases, but the true figure is likely to be higher, Prof Graham Meintjies, an executive committee member of the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society, said.

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