New HIV treatment to be introduced, it works with one pill

A single-pill HIV treatment is expected to be introduced in 2018 and is projected to save SA about R11bn over the following six years, the health ministry announced on Friday.

In a collaboration with international organisations and agencies, Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi reached the “breakthrough pricing agreement” which the ministry said would accelerate the availability of the first affordable, generic regimen containing antiretroviral dolutegravir.

“Apart from the financial savings, which will decrease pressure on our national fiscus, its introduction will also have significant benefits for patients,” ministry spokesperson Joe Maila explained in a statement.

“Dolutegravir is a highly effective antiretroviral, which is well tolerated by patients and has fewer side effects. Patients are therefore more likely to be adherent and more likely to be virally suppressed – which means that they are not likely to transmit the virus to others.”

At US$75 per person, per year, the new fixed dose combination will be available to low and middle-income countries at a reduced price, Maila said.

“The large volumes of ARVs purchased by South Africa were used to leverage the decrease in pricing that will benefit all low and middle income countries. The agreement is expected to accelerate treatment rollout as part of global efforts to reach all 36.7 million people living with HIV with high-quality antiretroviral therapy.”

According to the ministry, the HIV programme has grown in the last nine years from 923 000 people to 3.9m at the end of August.

Motsoaledi said the new dolutegravir-based fixed-dose combination will greatly benefit patients due to its “superior therapeutic qualities”.

“The considerable price reductions could yield savings of up to R11.7bn over the next six years for us, which means that we can initiate additional patients on treatment with the same amount of resources. Ramping up treatment with good viral suppression will enable us to reach HIV epidemic control more quickly. We are aiming at launching the new tender in April 2018.”