KATHMANDU, Nov 9: With the aim of providing free treatment to people living with HIV/AIDS, the government is mulling to encourage domestic pharmaceutical companies certified with World Health Organization Good Manufacturing Practice (WHOGMP) to manufacture generic antiretroviral (ART) medicine.
“It is the constitutional right of HIV infected persons to get free treatment, but the government is not in a position to afford branded medicines," says Dr Krishna Kumar Rai, director of National Centre for HIV/AIDS and STD Control (NCASC).
The government plans encourage domestic companies to produce antiretroviral drug so that it can afford free treatment to HIV/AIDS patients on its own, said Rai.
He said the government has been spending about Rs 200,000 on each HIV patient annually for free medicine and treatment. This money is provided by the donors.
However, the donors have only pledged financial assistance for the HIV patients only till 2015. More than 21,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS in Nepal currently. "We cannot always expect donors to solve our problems. So we need our own plan to deal with the crisis," said Rai.
According to doctors, discontinuation of the antiretroviral drugs may develop drug resistance among patients. Rai said the health ministry is also organizing a national AIDS conference from December1- 4 in which pharmaceuticals companies, donor agencies and other stakeholders would be invited to discuss the matter.
The center said if the pharmaceutical companies agree to manufacture generic ART drugs, the government would not need donor support to provide the drugs to patients free of cost.
An official at the health ministry said the government would also request the World Health Organization and its global partners to facilitate export of antiretroviral drugs manufactured by the Nepali pharmaceutical companies.
Domestic pharmaceuticals companies have also taken the government initiative positively. “The government should allow us to manufacture generic medicines for HIV/AIDS treatment," said Umesh Shrestha, Chairman of Quest Pharmaceuticals Company.
Shrestha, who is also former chairman of Association of Pharmaceuticals Producer of Nepal (APPON), said his company would manufacture antiretroviral drugs if the government allows.
Hari Bhakta Sharma, executive director of Deurali Janta Pharmaceutical Pvt Ltd, said Nepali pharmaceutical companies would be happy to manufacture antiretroviral drugs for Nepali patients.
According to Department of Drug Administration (DDA), 28 national pharmaceutical companies have been awarded with WHOGMP certificate.