File photo: ADEK BERRY

Johannesburg - Four pharmaceutical companies were jointly awarded a R10 billion tender to provide the health department with antiretroviral (ARV) medication for three years, the department said on Wednesday.

“The national department of health has today (Wednesday) announced various pharmaceutical companies that won the three-year tender worth over R10bn to supply ARVs to millions of patients on treatment in South Africa for 2015 - 2017,” the department said in a statement.

Sonke Pharmaceuticals was awarded R3bn, Mylan Pharmaceuticals R2.8bn, Aspen Pharma R2.5bn, and Cipla Medpro R2bn.

“There are over 2.7m people on ARV treatment in South Africa with about 1.5m receiving the fixed dose combination...” the department said.

“The health department aims to have about 4.6m people on treatment by the end if 2016.”

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced the fixed dose combination in April 2013 at Phedisong Clinic, Ga-Rankuwa north of Pretoria.

Motsoaledi said at the time the simplified ARV medication would see people with HIV taking one tablet a day instead of three.

“We believe that the roll-out of the fixed-dose combination (FDC) will assist a great deal in the management and treatment of HIV,” he said at the time.

“The FDC will improve compliance and reduce the risk of patients not complying with treatment dosage.”

Motsoaledi said the “three drugs in one pill” was highly effective in reducing the viral load and would improve a patient's immune response.

Newly-diagnosed patients and HIV-positive pregnant women were put on FDCs from the beginning of April 2013, while other “non-complicated” patients were switched to FDCs on a permanent basis in June 2013.

On Tuesday, Cipla Medpro CEO Paul Miller said Cipla was proud to have been recognised as a preferred partner of the state in the national fight against HIV and Aids.

Miller said this was the third government tender win in the last year for Cipla Medpro.

It won a R280m state therapeutic drug tender in August and a R345m national respiratory tender in June. - Sapa