Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
Nigeria ‘Quietly’ Launches Generic AIDS Drug Program
Nigerian health officials admitted yesterday that at the end of December they "quiet[ly]" began
dispersing generic AIDS drugs on a limited basis at 25 centers throughout the country, Reuters reports. "Our silence regarding the state of the program is on purpose," program coordinator Dr. Sani Gwarzo said, adding, "If we announced it to the whole country ... the doctors would be overwhelmed." The program, which uses generic drugs imported from Indian manufacturers Cipla Ltd. and Ranbaxy Laboratories, was supposed to begin in September but was repeatedly delayed. So far, the centers distributing the drugs have yet to fill their initial quotas of 25 patients each. They are expected to meet those quotas within the next few weeks, and the program should expand by the end of March. The government, which is subsidizing 80% of the cost of the drugs, seeks eventually to treat about 10,000 adults and 5,000 children, but it has only bought enough drugs to treat 8,000 patients this year. Officials are carefully screening potential program participants to determine the stage of their infection and their ability to respond to therapy. "Not every person living with HIV/AIDS will respond to the treatment," Dr. Oni Idigbe, director of the Nigerian Medical Institute of Research said, explaining, "The criteria they use has to do with chemistry ... only those who meet the requirements can receive treatment." Potential participants are also being screened for their ability to pay for the treatment, which will cost them about $1 a day. Ebenezer Durojaye, an HIV/AIDS counselor at the Center for the Right to Health, was surprised to hear that the program was up and running because officials have been "saying there are still delays." He added that it was "unbelievable" that the centers had not yet filled their initial 25-person quotas "[i]n a country with as many people living with AIDS as Nigeria." One in 17, or 5.8%, of Nigerians between the ages of 15 and 49 are estimated to be
HIV-positive (Doran, Reuters, 2/26).
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