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Indonesia seeks to reassure HIV patients over drug supplies

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia’s health ministry has sought to reassure HIV patients that sufficient antiretroviral (ARV) drugs will be available for their treatment after some hospitals had run out of supplies.

At least 29 hospitals and health centres in Indonesia had exhausted their stocks of a particular type of ARV, known as a fixed-dose combination of Tenofovir, Lamivudin and Efavirens (TLE), Aditya Wardhana of the Indonesia AIDS Coalition, a non-governmental organization, told a news conference.

The health ministry confirmed that a tender to procure some ARV drugs last year had failed, but said it had imported some of the TLE through The Global Fund, an international financing organisation to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Still, the Indonesia AIDS Coalition called for more emergency purchases via the fund, and urged President Joko Widodo to intervene.

More than 300,000 patients in Indonesia relied on ARV doses last year, according to Health Ministry data.

Engko Sosialine Magdalene, director general of pharmaceutical and medical devices at the ministry, said the country has enough fixed-dose ARV to last until May.

“A tender will start next month, so it will not impact our stocks,” Magdalene said on Saturday.

She said in the meantime patients unable to obtain the drug could use pills containing similar ingredients and there was sufficient stock until December.

Should the upcoming tender fail to be met by April, the health ministry had secured an additional 560,000 bottles of the separate TLE pills from the fund, Magdalene said.

Some patients, however, are concerned about potentially changing their medication.

“Clearly we are terrified,” HIV patient Baby Rivona Nasution, told the news conference hosted by the Indonesia AIDS Coalition. She has been using ARV medication for the past decade

“Will I still be alive or not by the end of the year?”

Wardhana of the Indonesia AIDS Coalition said the issue of obtaining the drugs distributed in the country by pharmaceutical companies Kimia Farma and Indofarma Global Medika may be due to high prices.

According to Magdalene, procurement regulations meant the ministry “could not access with such prices”. She did not elaborate.

Honesti Basyir, Kimia Farma president director, declined to comment on prices but said efforts must be made to reduce Indonesia’s reliance on costly imported raw materials for drugs.

Indofarma Global Medika could not be reached for comment.

Reporting by Agustinus Beo Da Costa, Tabita Diela, Jessica Damiana; Writing by Fransiska Nangoy; Editing by Ed Davies and Kim Coghill

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