Drug Shortages, Corruption Hindering Nigeria’s Antiretroviral Drug Program, Advocates Say
AIDS Alliance Nigeria on Tuesday said that the country's plan to provide discounted antiretroviral drugs has failed due to corruption, repeated drug shortages and the dispensation of expired drugs, the AP/Newport News Daily Press reports. President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2002 launched the program, which aimed to provide antiretroviral drugs to HIV-positive people at 25 government treatment centers for less than $1 a month, or less than 1% of the market price. However, AIDS Alliance Nigeria advocates said that government commitment to the program has "flagged" and the treatment centers in July 2003 began handing out expired drugs and rejecting patients, according to the AP/Daily Press. In addition, advocates said that officials at some of the centers began demanding bribes before dispensing the medications. "A total of 14,730 people living with HIV/AIDS on government-subsidized antiretroviral drugs may lose their lives to expired drugs and erratic drug administration," Lt. Commodore Nsikak Ekpe, an HIV-positive naval officer and president of AIDS Alliance Nigeria, said. Health Minister Eyitayo Lambo was unavailable for comment, but a senior Ministry of Health official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that the antiretroviral program was "in crisis" but that additional drugs had been ordered, according to the AP/Daily Press. In addition, the official said that doctors had dispensed expired drugs because of concerns that patients could develop drug resistance if they took a break in their treatment. Ekpe said that doctors had provided AIDS Alliance Nigeria with similar reasoning, but he added, "[W]e're not impressed by that argument because when a drug is expired, it's expired" (Mbachu, AP/Newport News Daily Press, 2/3).
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