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Home / Health & Science

Sh1.2 billion HIV drugs held at port about to expire

HEALTH & SCIENCEBy MERCY KAHENDA | Mon,May 31 2021 17:21:22 EAT
By MERCY KAHENDA | Mon,May 31 2021 17:21:22 EAT

 Most hospitals have run out of ARVs. [Courtesy]

The Sh1.2 billion HIV drugs held at the port of Mombasa since January following a standoff between the government and the importing America aid agency will expire in four months, according to an official at the ministry of Health.

The official, who did not wish to be named, also claimed USAID has started distributing the drugs to other countries so they can be used before they expire.

National AIDs and STI Control Programme (NASCOP) and the Health ministry are the only entities allowed to comment on the issue at the moment, said the source.

However, officials from the ministry NASCOP did not respond to phone calls and text messages. Our efforts to get a comment from Kemsa over the matter were fruitless. The official said the agency has been barred from speaking about the issue.

Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya (PSK) chief executive Daniella Munene said while holding the drugs at the port due to the tussle between USAID, and the government is worrying, they hope the medicines will reach patients before they expire.

“Most ARVs have a shelf life of 24 months. The more we continue holding the consignment, the more we make things worse for millions of patients in the face of biting shortage of ARVs," Dr Munene said.

USAID and the government have disagreed over how the drugs should be distributed. While the government has insisted that Kenya Medical Supplies Authority (Kemsa) should distribute the medicine, the American agency does not want the authority near them, following the scandal that erupted at the agency over purchase and distribution of PPEs.

USAID went ahead to contract a private company to distribute the Tenofovir, Lamivudine and Dalutegravir (TLD) drugs. Unhappy with the move, the government reacted by slapping ShSh45.8 million in import taxes on the consignment.

The ministry later paid the taxes, including Railway Development Levy (RDL) and Import Declaration Fees (IDF) for the 13 consignments, but USAID but there is no let-up as the American agency insists it does not want Kemsa near the drugs.

The government tried pacifying USAID by overhauling the board of Kemsa and insisted that the agency should be allowed to distribute the drugs but the American agency has refused to budge.

Later, the Health ministry accused USAID of importing the ARVs without its knowledge while Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani said the drugs were brought in without a formal engagement with the government.

Most hospitals have run out of ARVs.

HIV/AIDs coordinator in Elgeyo Markwet County Rose Maina said they received adult and pediatric ARVs two weeks ago. "We have low supply of the medicine. We do not know how we will move forward after exhausting current stocks. There has been no communication on the next supply.”

The county has about 4,000 HIV/AIDs patients. Iten County Referral Hospital serves 1,500 patients according to Ms Maina.

Current ARVs stocks in Nandi County will only last them for three months, according to Anne Rono, the coordinator of the National Empowerment Network of People Living with HIV and AIDS in Kenya.

Dr Munene noted that the fight between USAID and the government has continued to hurt patients who badly need the drugs. "We are hoping the matter will be resolved quickly so the drugs can reach patients before they expire."  

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