Speaking on the eve of World AIDS Day on Saturday, health minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi announced in Pretoria on Thursday that a tender for the triple FDC of tenofovir, emtricitabine and efavirenz had been approved.
“This in simple language means that a patient does not have to take 3 tablets a day and can now take 1 tablet once a day,” explained Motsoaledi.
FDCs have shown to have major benefits for patients in terms of compliance. The price of the FDC is R89.37, with the minister claiming this made it the world’s lowest priced FDC.
“It also means that logistics and storage are reduced; additionally there are fewer side effects with this combination,” the Minister added.
Motsoaledi said the FDC brings with it an additional extraordinary benefit for pregnant HIV positive women. “Because of this new fixed dose combination from April 2013 all pregnant women will be given the fixed dose combination during pregnancy and breast feeding and thereafter if their CD4 count is less than 350. The fixed dose combination is more effective than dual therapy and has fewer side effects for the pregnant mother, in addition to its’ convenient dosage regimen.”
He confirmed that the majority of patients currently on the three ARV drugs would switch to the FDC from April 2013. Government will continue to stock the current ARVs for those unable to switch.
Professor Andrew Boulle of the University of Cape Town has been calling for FDCs for a number of years: “This is fantastic news and the health department should be commended for the stewardship they have shown with this tender.”
Boulle expressed the hope that the department will follow this up by ensuring that these FDCs are packaged in monthly adherence-promoting blister packs to help patients keep track of their medication.