Sexual Health news - HIV

Generic ARVs expand HIV/AIDS treatment in Africa

Generic drugs are a cost effective therapeutic option for patients who may struggle with paying the full price of brand-name medications. These cheaper options are also helping overseas public health initiatives, such as the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPfAR), expanding the access to drug treatment for HIV and AIDS in poor countries.

The PEPfAR is a multibillion-dollar program initiated by the U.S. government to improve the quality of life for HIV and AIDS patients around the world. It focuses on serving patients in 15 developing countries, which include 12 in sub-Saharan Africa. When it first launched during the term of President George W. Bush, the program only used antiretrovirals (ARVs) that were approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the U.S. In 2005, around $1,100 was being spent on each individual for ARVs per year.

However, once the FDA approved foreign-made generic drugs for the program, costs were significantly cut down. In 2012, only $300 was spent per person, which allowed the initiative to expand its scope to more individuals in need.

"We are now providing HIV medications for more than 3 million people, hopefully 4 million soon, and are buying them for the least cost possible," said Charles Carpenter, M.D., a professor at Brown University's medical school and a physician at The Miriam Hospital.

Despite the increase in distribution of treatment, the program is facing the challenge that some HIV-positive individuals are becoming resistant to the first and second-line generic ARVs. Currently, PEPfAR is waiting to get second and third-line drugs approved. Carpenter explains that it is not known how long it will take to get those generics.

Getting these drugs approved for use requires the collaboration of the U.S. government, the FDA and the World Health Organization. Although it's not an easy feat, it could save millions of lives.