Claims of TB drugs crisis in KZN

2009-06-29 00:00

PRIVATE doctors, pharmacies and suppliers in the province just can’t seem to get their hands on the drugs needed to treat TB.

Many local private practices have indicated that for the past few months, they’ve been struggling to come by a drug called Rifinah which is given to tuberculosis (TB) patients for at least four months of their TB treatment.

A local private practitioner Dr Irshad Karrim said for past two months, he has not been able to source the drug. He also said none of the suppliers he deals with have been able to supply him with a generic or alternative.

“Not even the individual components that make up the drugs are available,” he said. “And this puts us in a worrying position.”

He explained that TB drugs usually come in two sets of treatment:

• A stronger drug made up of four TB treating ingredients which is administered during the first two months of TB treatment,

• and a weaker drug which is made up of only two of these ingredients which is administered for at least four months after the first line of drugs (depending on the severity of the case).

He said that, to his knowledge, the only second-line drug available to private practitioners in the province is Rifinah, which is manufactured by Sanofi-aventis.

The Witness called several distributors and wholesalers of pharmaceutical drugs in the province who all said they have no stock of the drug – nor did they have any alternatives.

Dr Karrim said because the drug is unavailable, private TB patients have to now choose whether to prolong their treatment of first-line drugs and run the risk of liver complications because of their potency, or discontinue treatment and run the risk of developing a resistance to TB drugs.

The Head of Public Affairs at Sanofi-aventis, Thulani Ndamane, however, said Rifinah is still available. She added they do not import as much of it as they used to because they no longer have a government tender.

Ndamane said Sanofi-aventis recently took a decision to import in bulk and package the product themselves.

She said they expect to have more stock available in the first week of July.

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