South Africa Mulls Allowing Generics for AbbVie HIV Drug
South Africa’s government is looking into a recommendation by medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres to allow generic versions of HIV drug Lopinavir after shortages resulted in interruptions to some treatments in the country with the highest number of infections by the virus.
A rise in patient numbers in April and capacity constraints at the European plant of U.S. Lopinavir supplier AbbVie Inc. led to reduced supplies of the drug in South Africa, according to Gavin Steel, the head of industrywide procurement at the Department of Health. The North Chicago-based company has since resolved the issue, he said.
Availability of generic versions of the drug, which is used by about 160,000 people in South Africa, would help prevent patients needing treatment that is “much more limited, expensive and harder to obtain,” Amir Shroufi, a medical co-ordinator for Medecins Sans Frontieres, said by e-mail on Friday. Lopinavir is also recommended for young children starting anti-retroviral therapy, Shroufi said.
“This issue exposes very clearly the importance of drug company patents in effectively blocking people from getting their essential medicines from other sources,” Shroufi said. A solution to prevent shortages of drugs is to “override patents on medicines of key importance,” Shroufi said.
Interruptions to treatment can cause patients to become resistant to the medication, Shroufi said. Lopinavir is already used by sufferers who have become immune to standard treatment of the virus.
The supply of Lopinavir had improved by mid-July after three additional AbbVie manufacturing sites were approved and by October there were no back orders, Steel said.
- Health Care