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MCC blocking access to lifesaving meds ‘€“ HIV clinicians

Written by Health-e News

HIV stakeholders are calling on the Medicines Control Council (MCC) to speed up the registration of critical anti-HIV medication or face legal action. The Southern African HIV Clinicians Society has sent an appeal to the health minister to intervene and address the MCC registration process which they describe as the single biggest obstacle to getting affordable access to medicines.

They claimed that some drug dossiers have been in the MCC pipeline for years. Society president Dr Francois Venter revealed in a letter to health minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi that he had been approached by concerned stakeholders, including HIV researchers, government health officials, international aid agencies, donors, pharmaceutical companies and activists.

He said they had been ‘€œexpressing intense frustration with the MCC’€™s slow registration process of antiretrovirals’€.

‘€œSeveral of these individuals have indicated to me that they are considering resorting to legal action, as all other remedies, including repeated correspondence, have failed to draw a response or an explanation from the MCC,’€ Venter wrote.

Venter listed a number of drugs that needed to prioritized for children and adults and urged Motsoaledi to facilitate the fast tracking of drugs to treat Tuberculosis and other common opportunistic infections. The drugs on the list include all fixed dose combinations especially those that will be on the state’€™s first line regimen, generic versions of some of the ARVs, Darunavir, Raltegravir, Etravirine and generic abacavir.

He warned Motsoaledi that if it was not done immediately, the government would be unable to issue a competitive tender for fixed dose combinations in April, further delaying patient access to drugs which are easier to take and require less pharmacy time.

Venter said he was aware that the MCC was dealing with a backlog, but the fact that is appeared to be blocking access to lifesaving medication was unacceptable. ‘€œI suggest you instruct your acting DG to place this issue on the next MCC meeting’€™s agenda, schedule for 19 March 2010, for immediate attention and action,’€ said Venter.

Venter asked for a formal and urgent response from the MCC after the meeting.

The Minister’€™s spokesperson Fidel Hadebe said he would respond once ‘€œthe minister had advised on the matter’€.

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