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MOH responds to allegations of medication shortage for HIV patients

There have been reports of  a shortage of anti-retroviral medications, which are used to treat patients with HIV/AIDS.

There have been reports of a shortage of anti-retroviral medications, which are used to treat patients with HIV/AIDS. According to a release from the People’s United Party, they have confirmed that patients are being turned away because there is no medication available at public health facilities managed under the Ministry of Health. Without the needed medication, these patients run the risk of viral rebound, HIV progression, and many more complications. Director of Health Services, Dr Marvin Manzanero, he is aware of one medication that is in short supply.

Dr. Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “I’m aware of one particular antiretroviral that is currently not available and that is Lopinavir/Retonovir, no brand name. We paid for it in April of this year and I believe it’s close to a quarter of a million dollars. The supplier in India from where we get it directly was having difficulty getting the raw material, you notice earlier in the year when we were having issues with certain medications being tainted by potential cancer producing agents so they were trying to screen that. Two is also markets, economies of scale I mean countries like South Africa buy millions of boxes we buy 3,600 I think is our, so we have been put on that waiting list and that waiting list just keeps getting longer and longer. We are finally getting an assurance that it should be in country in the next three to four weeks. There is another combination medication that has three anti-retrovirals in one single pill, I think we have stocked out of that but what I’ve been made to understand is that the three medications are available as separate pills so the patient is going to be taking two or three different pills because you can’t take the single one because we have stocked out of that and that also has to do with not a procurement process from our end but simply the supplier not being able to meet the global demand. Finally the third matter that is on the table is that Indian companies that were traditionally producing antiretrovirals you notice the HIV situation was recently in the market ten or twelve years ago, they have shifted away from producing anti-retroviral to producing medications that are now more used or just being introduced into the market because these are companies that produce generic products after the registered trademark has come off.”

Doctor Manzanero also stated that other countries in the region are facing low supply, and thus are unable to fully assist.

Dr. Marvin Manzanero, Director of Health Services: “That particular medication that we have stocked out is three to four weeks. We have tried loaning from the region; Costa Rica is the only one that is able to provide us a loan I think that loan supply has been depleted. All countries in the region are having kind of lower stocks in that regard so they have not been able to loan us any product. No other company as far as I’m aware is importing anti-retrovirals into Belize and the medications are very costly if you go across the border because Mexico doesn’t do generic antiretrovirals they do brand name and so a box that will cost us $9.31 US you buy in Mexico $1,200 US.”