The generic, single-pill HIV treatment regimen containing dolutegravir will greatly improve HIV treatment in South Africa

Pretoria - Health minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi announced a breakthrough pricing agreement which will accelerate the availability of high-quality antiretroviral therapy in the country and save R11 billion over the next 6 years.

The agreement involves the generic, single-pill HIV treatment regimen containing dolutegravir (DTG) at a reduced price of $75 a person, a year.

The volumes of ARVs purchased by South Africa were used to push for the decrease in pricing in an agreement that is expected to benefit 36.7 million people world wide living with HIV.

The announcement will have profound implications for the HIV treatment in South Africa. The HIV programme has grown from 923 000 patients in 2009 to 3.9m patients at the of the end of August 2017. In September last year Motsoaledi announced the roll-out of the test and treat initiative which aimed to have 6 million HIV positive patients on treatment by 2022.

South Africa will introduce the new fixed dose combination of three drugs, Tenofovir, Lamivudine and Dolutegravir in April 2018. 

Apart from the financial savings, Dolutegravir is a highly effective antiretroviral, which is well tolerated by patients and has fewer side effects, the department said. Patients were therefore more likely to stick to the treatment.

The governments of SA and Kenya, in partnership with international agencies worked on this ground breaking pricing agreement.

“I am excited about this agreement which will allow the government to accelerate the introduction of the dolutegravir-based fixed-dose combination which will greatly benefit our patients due to its superior therapeutic qualities,” said Motsoaledi.

 “The considerable price reductions could yield savings of up to R11.7 billion over the next six years for us, which means that we can bring additional patients on treatment with the same resources. Ramping up treatment with good viral suppression will enable us to reach HIV epidemic control more quickly. We are aiming at launching the new tender in April 2018,” he said.  

The Independent on Saturday