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Decision to improve access to HIV drug welcomed

Decision to improve access to HIV drug welcomed

The New Zealand AIDS Foundation welcomes Pharmac’s decision to give full access to the anti-HIV treatment, Kaletra. This will ensure those recently diagnosed with HIV, as well as those who have been living with the virus for many years, have access to a very effective anti-retroviral treatment.

NZAF Positive Health Manager Eamonn Smythe says it is good news for people newly diagnosed with HIV infection because, previously, Kaletra was not approved as a “first stage” treatment in spite of overseas experience suggesting it was an excellent drug for combating HIV in its early stages.

The news that Pharmac will also extend availability of anti-HIV treatments to help prevent pregnant HIV-positive women passing on the virus to their child is also welcomed by the Foundation. However it says the benefits of this will be limited unless there is also a nationally available HIV screening programme for pregnant women to ensure no-one misses out on an opportunity to protect their child.

Eamonn Smythe says that while the Pharmac announcement is good news, the Foundation is concerned at the length of time that it has taken for Kaletra to become fully available.

“It’s a process that has taken three years from after Kaletra was first registered in this country. In that time some people have died and others have needlessly spent time in hospital needing extensive, and expensive, care. If these drugs were available earlier, their recipients could have continued to be working, paying taxes, caring for their families and contributing to their communities. The delays caused a huge cost on our health care and a huge burden to positive people and their families that we would not want to see repeated.

“Pharmac’s processes for approving new drugs must be speeded up. The foundation is concerned that, in the case of Kaletra, unnecessary costs were passed on to hospitals when people waiting for the drug to become available ended up spending a long time in intensive care.”


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