March 30, 2012
Basic stocks of an essential HIV/AIDS drug are running dangerously low at health care facilities in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, and North West, putting patients at risk for drug resistance, the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society is warning.
The shortage of tenofovir comes amid concerns about the Department of Health's supply-chain management. Public health facilities frequently run out of basic medical supplies, including antibiotics.
However, no group has taken responsibility for the problem. The health department's deputy director-general for health regulation and compliance, Anban Pillay, blames pharmaceutical companies for failing to meet demand, and drugmakers say provincial health departments are not ordering correctly or in a timely manner.
Several provinces ran out of money for AIDS drugs in 2009, prompting the government to secure US funding for a two-year grant for treatment efforts. That tender was split between Aspen Pharmacare and Sonke Pharmaceuticals.
"They are not supplying anything close to what they promised," said Pillay. "Somehow they thought the figures we gave them were inflated. They have told us they are not able to cope with demand."
Both companies dispute this. "We have met the upsurge. The issued is demand management," said Stavros Nicolaou, head of Aspen's strategic trade development. "It takes three months to increase production," said Sonke CEO Sotse Segoneco. "They did not order for 10 or 11 months, and now they are flooding us with orders." Despite outstanding debts in Gauteng, both companies noted they continue to supply the province.