MSF Urges Drug Companies To Boost Development of Low-Cost, ‘Child-Friendly’ Antiretroviral Drugs
International medical aid agency Medecins Sans Frontieres on Monday urged pharmaceutical companies to scale up the development of low-cost antiretroviral drugs that are suitable for children, AFP/Yahoo! News reports (AFP/Yahoo! News, 11/28). The organization said the lack of "child-friendly" versions of antiretrovirals is a major contributing reason that half of all infants born with HIV die before age two. "In the absence of child-strength pills that combine all needed drugs in one tablet, medical staff and caregivers are often forced to crush combination pills meant for adults," Rachel Thomas, medical coordinator of an MSF project in Kenya, said (MSF release, 11/28). This method can be ineffective and dangerous because giving too little of a dose can lead to drug-resistant strains of the virus and giving too much can be toxic for children (AFP/Yahoo! News, 11/28). The group also called for the development of "simple and affordable" HIV tests for infants in resource-poor settings, Xinhuanet reports. Existing tests for children are too expensive or not practical in some settings, MSF said. In addition, the test used in developing countries is inaccurate in infants under 18 months old because antibodies from HIV-positive mothers still show up in their blood, and the test does not indicate whether the antibodies are the infant's or the mother's (Xinhuanet, 11/29). Less than 1% of the 2.2 million HIV-positive children worldwide are receiving antiretroviral drugs, without which most of them would not live to be five years old (Zavis, Associated Press, 11/29).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.