New HIV drug a 'wonder'

29 November 2016 - 02:04 By KATHARINE CHILD

There is a "wonder drug" that could help the government afford to put even more HIV patients on antiretroviral treatment and reduce the side-effects of the drugs.South Africa has almost 3.5million people on ARV treatment - the highest number in the world.But, despite the country having the cheapest ARVs in the world - R1000 a year per state patient - the costs are mounting as the economy weakens.Dolutegravir, a new ARV under trial in the country, could be a way to cut the price of HIV treatment, and reduce the number of people resistant to HIV treatment, Wits Professor François Venter said.Dolutegravir could replace Efavirenz, a drug with well-documented side- effects. And because it will be a lower-dosage ARV, it would be cheaper to produce.Dolutegravir is widely used in the USand there is no known case of resistance recorded, said Venter.Speaking ahead of World Aids Day on Thursday, Wits Professor Ian Sanne said by 2020 South Africa would be spending R6-billion a year on ARV treatment alone.Sanne called Dolutegravir a "wonder drug".Aspen Pharmacare has the licence to manufacture the drug locally, but is yet to apply to get approval from the Medicine Control Council to manufacture a combination drug with it.Aspen senior executive Stavros Nicolaou said using Dolutegravir would reduce the price of ARVs.

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