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India’s Free HIV/AIDS Program will Run Out of Critical Drug

Update Date: Oct 01, 2014 10:09 AM EDT

India's HIV/AIDS program that distributes free critical drugs might have a shortage in three weeks. According to a senior government official, the program is set to run out of drugs due to bureaucratic bungling and will leave more than 150,000 patients untreated for roughly one month.

In India, more than one-third of the 2.1 million people infected with HIV/AIDS get free antiretroviral drugs from the government. This program has been handing out drugs since 2004. The drugs are acquired from pharmaceutical companies through a tender process. Due to delays in the approval of such tenders, the National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) is having difficulty getting the proper amount of tenofovir/lamivudine tablets, which are given to patients during the beginning stages of treatment.

"We are also fed up. What to do? There are so many bureaucratic hurdles. The file goes to so many tables, and so many comments," NACO Deputy Director General A.S. Rathore told Reuters.

According to Reuters, a tender for medicine appeared to have been approved last week. Since it takes about 60 days to get the drugs to the patients, patients will not have proper treatment for about a month. Missing dosages for a long period of time could lead to drug resistance and virus progression. Changes in people's drug schedule can also lead to side effects.

NACO is calling for help from other companies, such as Aurobindo Pharma in an attempt to avoid this crisis. Aurobindo Pharma, which has a contract, stated that it would also take them about 60 days to manufacture the drugs.

"As per the books we can only supply by November-end, but we are trying to do something by which we can supply earlier to meet the urgent demand," the official with Aurobindo Pharma stated. "We are trying to work against time."

Rathore stressed, "If they don't give medicines, we can't make medicines, we can't do anything. If stocks won't be there, they won't be there."

Aside from bureaucratic complications, Rathore stated that the poor communication between NACO and the state centers made it difficult to truly assess the supply-demand situation.

In 2012, 140,000 people died from AIDS in India. At the end of 2013, India's rate of HIV was the third highest in the world.

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