Global fund to help solve India’s HIV drug crisis

Health Ministry releases Rs. 6 crore to pay Cipla Pharma

After running out of the child-friendly HIV syrup, Lopinavir, India is likely to procure the drug from a rapid supply facility routed through the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM), a multilateral donor agency.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry on Tuesday released the first installment of the Rs. 6 crore payment due to Cipla Pharmaceuticals — the sole manufacturer of the drug. While the immediate crisis triggered by unpaid bills is being sorted, the shortage of the drug itself still looms large over India’s national HIV programme. India has a cohort of over 600 children who require 36,000 bottles of Lopinavir syrup annually.

Speaking to The Hindu , Dr. Denis Broun, Global Director for access and public affairs at Cipla Pharmaceuticals, clarified that the company did not have a position in principle that they ever participate in government tenders. “Cipla has been supplying anti retrovirals to governments and we have been upfront with our issues of payments over the past several months. The last payment was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Dr. Broun.

“We did not participate in the last tender because of the payment issues. We understand that the government is trying to sort out the financial situation and I want to clarify that we do not have a position, in principle, that we will not participate in government bidding.”

A relief

In what is a relief to HIV community, he added that Cipla Pharmaceuticals will be re-submitting the application seeking registration of the Lopinavir pellets — a better paediatric formulation as it can be added to meals and will not require refrigeration.

The Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) is likely to give the approvals accelerated attention, given the dire shortage.

The developments follow a March 6 report by The Hindu , ‘India runs out of life-saving HIV drug for children’, that 637 children living with HIV (CLHIV) ranging from ages 3 to 19, had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi after Cipla stopped production of the drug due to non-payment of bills from 2014. Upset with continued non-payment, Cipla Pharmaceuticals had stopped participating in government tenders, resulting in the current stock-out.

The Health Ministry has maintained that the supply of Lopinavir should resume by the end of this week, informed Arun Panda, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

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