CLEAR THE AIR, HEALTH MINISTRY

It has been reported that Apotex Inc., Canada’s largest pharmaceutical company will soon ship to Rwanda a new HIV/Aids drug. Apo-TriAvir combines Zidovudine, Lamivudine and Nevirapine, three drugs otherwise administered separately to patients.

It has been reported that Apotex Inc., Canada’s largest pharmaceutical company will soon ship to Rwanda a new HIV/Aids drug. Apo-TriAvir combines Zidovudine, Lamivudine and Nevirapine, three drugs otherwise administered separately to patients.

Apotex plans to dispatch pills to the tune of 15.6 million in the first consignment sometime in October this year. The scheme will be made possible courtesy of Canadian Access to Medicine Regime (CAMR).

This is a mechanism put in place to cater for developing countries with critical healthcare needs by availing to them inexpensive generic versions of patented medicine. A dose of Apo-TriAvir will cost as low as three thousand francs or US$6 only.

It is anticipated that more than a quarter of a million people infected with HIV/Aids will benefit from the drug. Likely, further government subsidy to the drug could see its price plummet to as little as US$2.

The managing director of TRAC Plus, also head of HIV/Aids task force Dr. Anita Asiimwe is pleased with the convenience the drug offers, stating that its triple combination and the uncompromised quality were the main reason it was chosen as a better option. She emphasised that the cost being comparatively low was only an added advantage.

This rosy story has a loophole though. What sounds as a done deal with Apotex, according to the TRAC boss, lacks the Minister of Health’s endorsement. Not even confirmation by the national medical stores, CAMERWA head that the order has been placed is enough to seal it as true, considering that the minister is the topmost official in these matters.

According to the minister, there were discussions with Apotex at one time but it never materialised. It makes people wonder where the lack of coordination on such a crucial affair originates from. It begs clarification as a matter of urgency.

HIV/Aids drugs are a matter of life and death. Talking about their availability at drastically reduced prices is to raise high hopes within the patients. But those hopes have to be solidly founded, lest they in the end translate into a source of frustration. Someone set the record straight please.

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