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Countries in the Americas improve management of HIV/AIDS drugs to prevent shortages
Apr 2, 2013 - 2:38:12 PM

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A pilot project supported by PAHO/WHO and the Global Fund may expand to other countries

Washington, D.C. - Three Latin American countries are working to strengthen their management of drugs for the treatment of HIV/AIDS, as part of a pilot project supported by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. The project aims, among other things, to prevent shortages of antiretroviral drugs, a problem that has affected a number of countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Guatemala, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic are participating in the pilot project, which seeks to improve supply systems for HIV/AIDS medications as well as transparency in drug management information. Other Latin American countries have asked to join the project in the coming months.

“The purchase and efficient management of antiretroviral drugs in the region is indispensable to guaranteeing sustainable access to these drugs,” said James Fitzgerald, PAHO/WHO senior advisor on essential medicines and biologicals. “However, some countries in the Americas have experienced episodes of shortages of antiretrovirals, which has led to interruption of treatment for HIV/AIDS. Strengthening antiretroviral drug management systems is a public health priority.” 

Antiretroviral drug shortages—known as “stock-outs”—can result in dangerous interruptions in treatment for people with HIV/AIDS, in some cases leading to drug resistance, requiring review and changes in their treatment.

Latin America and the Caribbean have higher levels of antiretroviral coverage than any other developing region, however, countries face challenges in maintaining and increasing coverage.

Nearly 68% of people in Latin America who need antiretroviral therapy are receiving it, as are 67% in the Caribbean. However, in 2011 more than half of Latin American and Caribbean countries (14 of 26 countries, or 54%) reported at least one stock-out of antiretrovirals. These episodes were largely the result of problems with bidding, purchasing, and distribution processes or complications with antiretroviral production.

At the start of the pilot project, PAHO/WHO, in cooperation with the Global Fund, sponsored an exchange of information among national health authorities, strategic partners, and civil society representatives in each country, to analyze problems that could affect the effective supply of HIV/AIDS drugs. Several strategies have been identified to reduce the risk of shortages and ensure continuity of treatment for people with HIV/AIDS.

To implement antiretroviral drug monitoring systems, the three countries are using the PAHO/WHO Regional Platform on Access and Innovation for Health Technologies (PRAIS in Spanish), which provides online tools to systematize and share information.

Through PRAIS, countries can create and exchange lists of antiretroviral drugs, monitor their stocks and consumption, and collect data on drug availability. They can also use an early warning system that provides at least six months advance notice of a potential problem in the antiretroviral drug supply.

The platform also makes it possible for countries to handle information transparently, forecast antiretroviral drug needs, reschedule procurement, and search for efficient purchasing mechanisms and affordable prices, which helps prevent the need for emergency purchases. The platform also allows countries to share this information and exchange drugs among themselves, if needed.

Antiretroviral therapy consists of the combination of at least three antiretroviral drugs to suppress the HIV virus and halt progression of the disease. Currently, patients must take these drugs every day for the rest of their lives.

PAHO, founded in 1902, is the oldest international public health organization in the world. It works with its member countries to improve the health and the quality of life of the people of the Americas. It also serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of WHO.

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