Western Cape Health Department is expecting to receive stock of a new antiretroviral treatment that can be used in conjunction with other ARVs. Photo: Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko
Cape Town - The provincial department of health (DoH) is expecting to receive stock of a new antiretroviral (ARV) treatment called dolutegravir (DTG) by September, a drug that can be used in conjunction with other ARVs as a first and second-line treatment.

This is according to spokesperson, Mark van der Heever, who also said they would only begin implementation once sufficient stock is available.

“Clinical training of staff also has to be conducted and educating patients on the use of it must still commence; thus the transitioning of all patients on to DTG will not happen immediately when the province receives the stock,” he said.

DTG was recently approved by the World Health Organisation (WHO), after preliminary results of a 96-week trial, that was conducted by a Joburg-based research group from the University of the Witwatersrand.

The drug was discussed at the International Aids Conference on July 24 in Mexico City.

“Based on new evidence, assessing benefits and risks, the WHO recommends the use of the HIV drug, DTG as the preferred first-line and second-line treatment for all populations, including pregnant women and those of childbearing potential,” WHO said.

Van der Heever said the side effects of DTG were milder than those presented from other ARVs.

“The most common side effect of dolutegravir is insomnia, but this may be mitigated by taking treatment in the morning and may wane over time; other side effects are headaches, nausea and a modest amount of weight gain,” he said.

He said DTG was easy to take and had a higher barrier to resistance, which meant resistance would not happen quickly; the drug could be used with all types of hormonal contraception.

According to national training co-ordinator for the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), Luckyboy Mkhondwane, the smaller dosages of DTG will make adherence easier and storage more manageable.

“For the very first time, we will be having a new drug that is cheap because of the pricing agreement between the WHO and the pharmaceutical companies, which states that at $75 (R1086) per year per person, South Africa will be able to save $900million (more than R13billion) over the next six years, meaning that more people can be initiated on treatment,” he said.

“The older drugs will still be available, but in smaller quantities.”

DTG will be available at all clinics and health-care facilities.

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