Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
Bristol-Myers Squibb ‘Allows’ Kenyan Stocks of Antiretroviral Drugs to Run Out
Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. has acknowledged that it "allowed" Kenyan stocks of two of its antiretroviral drugs to "dry up", leaving some HIV/AIDS patients with "less effective" or no treatment, the Wall Street Journal reports. The situation is "embarrassing" for the drugmaker, which announced last March that it would offer its antiretrovirals Videx and Zerit to African countries at 93% below the drugs' cost in North America. Bristol-Myers said that demand for the discounted therapies "grew so strong" that its supply chain between the United States and Kenya "could not keep pace," and the drugs began to run out approximately three months ago. The "supply glitch" has affected 25-milligram doses of Videx and 30-milligram doses of Zerit, but larger doses of the drugs are still "mostly available," the Journal reports. The pharmaceutical company said that new supplies are "already arriving" at distribution centers in the country or are awaiting clearance in Kenyan customs. Bob Lefebvre,
Bristol-Myers' senior director for project access, said, "It's tragic. Stock-outs are unfortunate and can lead to wrong clinical decisions." Some patients have not received the "precise, regular dosages required to maximize the benefits yet reduce the risk of side effects." Some doctors have handed out knives with larger-dose pills along with directions to "cut them into the right shapes and dosage." John Wassonga, a Nairobi physician, said that most of his patients find altering the pills "bothersome" and often mix up the dosages. Some doctors and hospitals switched patients to GlaxoSmithKline's discounted Combivir. Although stocks of that drug also ran out in March due to an increase in demand, the supply problem has been fixed, the Journal reports. According to Wyger Wenthold, a Doctors Without Borders spokesperson in Kenya, "The irony is that drug companies stress the need to have consistent, accurate use of their drugs but here, they are the ones creating the problems" (Winestock, Wall Street Journal, 4/11).
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