August 3, 2007
Region saved from potential catastrophe

This country, along with some other Caribbean territories, were saved from potential catastrophe following the recall of a leading drug used to treat the HIV virus.{{more}}

The recall of the drug Viracept, by Roache Pharmaceuticals of Switzerland in early June, has disrupted treatment for tens of thousands of the world’s poorest patients the New York Times reported last week. The recall has been described as “extraordinary, if not unprecedented in the battle against the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS”.

The drug, which is one of the cheapest of its kind, was recalled after Roache discovered that some batches made at its Swiss plant contained a dangerous chemical. According to the New York Times, the recall has caused “growing concern among global health officials and in AIDS programmes in many poor nations”.

Viracept is used by many persons living with HIV/AIDS in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

According to the report, so far, in some countries like Panama, patients or treatment programmes have had to make up the difference in cost between Viracept and far more expensive alternatives. For some patients in other countries, like Venezuela, alternatives to Viracept are unavailable.

Persons unable to purchase the expensive alternatives, would then be faced with the possibility of continuing to use a drug that is tainted or doing without treatment until Viracept is re-distributed.

Here at home, Dr. Conrad Nedd, Clinical Care Specialist at the Ministry of Health’s National AIDS Secretariat revealed that all is well here in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in relation to the drug.

Nedd said that the secretariat is aware of the recall, but fortunately the drug used here was not obtained from Roache in Switzerland.

He informed Searchlight that this country’s batch was purchased from a company called Cilpa, through the Pharmaceutical Procurement Services (PPS), a regional body set up through CARICOM.

He said that had the drug been recalled, patients would have been notified and alternative drugs prescribed.

Nedd went on to say that his biggest concern is that not enough persons who are aware of their HIV positive status, are currently getting treatment.

He said that of the over 190 persons in clinical care, just under one hundred persons are on medication.

He made a call for persons to among other things, seek the available treatment, and suggested that it be made mandatory that HIV positive persons seek counseling and treatment.