Drug Shortages Reach Crisis Levels In South African Province

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In the past week, three stories about severe TB or HIV drug shortages have landed in our inbox. From Uganda to Burma to South Africa, TB and HIV patients are being forced to go without desperately needed medications.

The latest story is the most troubling. An article in the Globe and Mail recounts the story of a mother trying, unsuccessfully, to get antiretroviral drugs for her HIV-positive five-year-old daughter. The mother lives in constant fear about her daughter’s health, panicking with every sneeze or cough. Click here to read the full piece.

This is but one tale in a broader, unfolding catastrophe. For months now, global health advocates have been sounding alarm bells about the impact of the global economic downturn on health spending. This story and others like it out of Burma and Uganda are the first indication of the consequences of funding shortfalls in developing countries. This problem could be compounded if the U.S. and other donor countries are unwilling to  step into the gap, by increasing spending on global health and upping contributions to the vital programs like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Most immediately, these developments threaten the lives of TB or HIV infected patients like Thato, the five-year-old featured in the Globe and Mail story. That article reports that 30 people are dying every day in her South African province of Free State while waiting for ARVs.

But the long-term effects of this could be even more widespread: increased drug-resistance. When patients who have been on treatment are suddenly denied their medications, it is a recipe for increased virulence.

The world is already ill-equipped to cope with the growing threat of drug-resistant TB. These latest stories present an entirely new scenario, in which our failure to maintain current global health programs throws fuel on the fire of drug-resistant TB and HIV.

0 thoughts on “Drug Shortages Reach Crisis Levels In South African Province

  1. Kenneth A Yongabi

    Development of Phytobased Nutriceuticals for the Management and Treatment of HIV/AIDS and TB-an African Response to HIV-TB Drug shortage on the continent

    Dr Kenneth A. Yongabi
    Phytobiotechnology Research Foundation (PRF)
    P.O. Box 921, Bamenda
    Email: yongabika@yahoo.com

    Human Immuno deficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune deficiency Syndrome (AIDs), Cancer and many other infectious diseases are plaguing the world with a greater burden in Africa as indicated by global statistics.
    Global and Regional estimates of HIV/AIDs strongly indicates that the pandemic is growing despite enormous efforts invested in awareness campaigns and the administration of antiretroviral drugs.
    Apparently, the aetiology, pathogenesis, pathology virulence, epidemiology, modes of spread and prophylaxic of HIV/AIDs in the last couple of years have been well researched with enormous supportive literature. Yet, developing a therapy for HIV/AIDs and TB remains a feat.
    Rarely in modern times, have humankind witnessed a disease with myriads of scientific, social and psychological challenges like HIV/AIDs. The real challenge, however, is the lack of effective treatment.
    “What we know, what we believe is in the end of little consequence, but what we do is what matters”.

    Conventional remedies (i.e. the intervention with the use of antiretroviral drugs: Duovir, combivir, kaletra,Triomune etc) are proving inefficient to contain the scourge especially in sub-Saharan Africa. It would appear that antiretroviral resistance is becoming widespread and little or no studies are tailored toward highlighting and addressing this.
    Antiretroviral drugs, not withstanding, have been very instrumental in prolonging the lives of many HIV patients globally, especially, in Africa. The glaring dwindling quality of lives and mortality rate of patients who are on antiretroviral regimen for a long period of time provokes serious research questions. Prolonged use of synthetic antiretroviral and antiTB regimens have generated elevated liver and kidney transaminases and as such accelerated deaths in certain circumstances.
    In Cameroon and Nigeria, for instance, there are certain fields experiences observed with the CD4 count-antiretroviral follow up that makes follow up of patients’ tasking:
    1. What do we do with patients whose CD4 counts are significantly high and unqualified for ARV intervention, but with a high prevalence of a number of opportunistic infections, yet treatment for opportunistic disease alone doesn’t yield significant progress.
    2. What do we do with HIV/AIDs patients whose CD4 counts are significantly low but when placed on ARTs, they encounter fierce side effects and thus suspend treatment.
    The need therefore, to evolve and standardize alternative medical biotechnology to combat this scourge need no further elaboration. Efforts in the past and present have focused heavily on vaccine development which May not likely yield dividends in the foreseeable future, yet millions of Africans die daily.
    Apparently, a lot of studies on HIV and TB therapy have been done but these degree / academic based researches have not been translated to contain this epidemic at grassroots.
    Yet, there are many HIV/AIDs patients in the rural Africa who live and manage their status using indigenous knowledge, . If this is carefully studied, it could lead to novel leads for HIV/AIDs and TB drugs.
    Africa is host to some 500.000 medicinal plants and a rich biodiversity of Macrofungi. About 25% of world Macrofungi biodiversity is in Africa that remains grossly under exploited for medicine.How can these scourges be taking a hard toll in the midst of latent possibilities?I believe funding opportunities should not be limited to one domain-eg vaccines and recombinant gene techniques alone,simple alternative technologies should be explored and funded as well.I am compelled to make this statement based on the premise that behind any problem lies the solution in disguise.perhaps I share my experience thus,
    A phytobased nutriceutical has been developed and is being used at our clinic to manage, treat HIV/AIDs and TB patients based on a local survey on indigenous knowledge amongs tribes in Cameroon and Nigeria. Screening of more than 50 medicinal plants and Macrofungi as well as inventory of indigenous knowledge on HIV/AIDs management in Cameroon and Nigeria had begun some couple of years ago.
    The organic solvent extracts have been tested against a wide range of microbial isolates from HIV/AIDs patients. A phytoimmuno therapy in the form of nutriceutical has been developed . The preliminary results have been more than 200 patients whose CD4 counts, general well being had improved significantly and patients lives prolonged. More than 40 patients are observed to live normally for more than a year since they stopped treatment. . Our lessons learnt with close to 500 HIV/AIDs patients, a number of prostate cancer cases and Hepatitis has been a strong motivation for advocacy for the search of new HIV and TB drugs from the Flora of Tropical Africa to complement the inherent drug shortage which is likely to increase further.

    Dr Kenneth A Yongabi
    Phytobiotechnology Research Foundation and Clinics,
    P.O.box 921,Bamenda,Cameroon


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