Quality Chemicals Industries Ltd last week launched Trioday, an Antiretroviral (ARV) drug that will change the lives of HIV-positive people.
Speaking at the launch at Serena hotel, Emmanuel Katongole, the managing director and chief executive officer of Cipla Quality Chemical Industries Limited Uganda, said the drug invented by Dr Yussuf Hamied will be a great relief.
“In the past, patients used to take half a bucket of ARVs daily. Then it reduced to three tablets daily but they will now be taking one pill a day, with even more efficacy,” Katongole said.
According to Professor Peter Mugyenyi of Joint Clinical Research Centre (JCRC), Uganda has gone through four phases of ARV treatment for the 40-year-old pandemic. Before 1996, millions of Ugandans died because there was no effective treatment.
Between 1996 and 2004, treatment was available in America and Europe but Uganda had no easy access to it. In the mid 2000s, help started to trickle in with the help of global fund and President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) from USA. Treatment was available in most parts of the country. Mugyenyi says Uganda is currently at the final stage in elimination of HIV.
“We are no longer talking about treating the [pandemic] but ending it. We are now treating 70 per cent of diagnosed patients. This is a landmark achievement,” he said.
In an interview with the Observer, the UNAIDS country director, Musa Ahmed Bungudu, said other East African countries should emulate what Uganda has done to reduce the burden of donor funding.
He also said there are many children under 15 years who could be on ARV treatment but are not; with the new drug, he encouraged doctors to start them on treatment.
Reports from the ministry of health indicate that 750,000 people are on ARVs, nearly half of the approximately 1.6 million people living with HIV/Aids.
JCRC’s Mugyenyi said if the ministry of health is supported to immediately put all HIV-positive people, regardless of CD4 count, on treatment by 2020, then the pandemic will be over by 2030. Research shows that HIV treatment is also effective as a prevention mechanism, as it greatly reduces chances of one infecting one’s sexual partner.
Katongole said the drug will cost about Shs 50,000 per month per person. Budungu also urged those who can afford the drugs to buy them, to ease government’s burden.
“I know there are many families, companies and individuals who can afford these drugs; please stop depending on the government, depending on the government means the government will be depending on donors. Buy these drugs if you can afford,” he said.
Trioday contains Efavirenz, which has Truvada, (a combination of tenofovir and emtricitabine), all of which are reverse transcriptase inhibitors.
This combination of three medications, approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in July 2006, provides highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) in a single tablet taken once a day.
Also launched was Tenofovir, the first Hepatitis B drug to be manufactured in Africa. At least 250 million people in Africa live with Hepatitis B. About 3.5 million in Uganda are at risk of acquiring it.
Health minister Dr Elioda Tumwesigye explained that the drug, also invented by Hamied, has been built to stand alone so Hepatitis B patients will not have to take medicine meant for HIV patients.
“The same drug that has been given in a triple combination with other drugs to AIDS patients will now be administered as mono therapy. It will cost 70 dollars per month.”
The health ministry presented Dr Hamied with a lifetime achievement award for his contribution to availing medicine to the poor.