South Africa Approves Combivir, ‘Reaffirming Efficacy’ of AZT
The South African Medicines Control Council approved the antiretroviral combination drug Combivir on Friday, Reuters Health reports. The mix of zidovudine (AZT) and lamivudine (3TC) is expected to be available in pharmacies next week. The "reaffirmation of the efficacy" of the drug is limited, as only health care workers who have had an occupational exposure to HIV may use it. While AZT has been available in the private sector for 11 years, South African President Thabo Mbeki prevented the drug from becoming widely available by "casting doubt" on it and not allowing its use in the "financially over-stretched public health system," Reuters Health reports. The approval of Combivir comes after almost three years of negotiations between South African officials and the drug manufacturer, Glaxo Wellcome. Dr. Peter Moore, medical director of Glaxo Wellcome South Africa, said, "It's a strong endorsement by a respectable body. The MCC doesn't have a problem with the efficacy of the drug. It invalidates what was said [by Mbeki]." About 3,000 South Africans who are either "HIV-positive, pregnant or health workers" currently use AZT (Swindells, Reuters Health, 11/14).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.