MEMBERS of the Zimbabwe Women Living with HIV/Aids Forum have urged the government to administer the Dolutegravir (DTG) drug on HIV-positive pregnant women to help elimination of the mother-to-child transmission.
BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE
DTG is an antiretroviral medication used, together with other medication, to treat HIV and Aids.
It may also be used, as part of post exposure prophylaxis, to prevent HIV infection following potential exposure.
Forum chairperson Tendai Westerhof said there was need for the government to include this drug in the national guidelines as it was essential in reducing mother-to-child transmission.
“There is need for government to include this drug (DTG) in the national guidelines as it is essential in reducing mother to child transmission and, therefore, it is important that DTG is adapted and adopted for use by pregnant HIV positive women,” Westerhof said.
The call on the use of DTG comes at a time when agencies have shown caution about use of the drug by pregnant HIV positive women.
The drug was associated with a birth defect in a Botswana study and regulators have issued precautionary advice to HIV-positive women.
The European Medicines Agency was the first agency to disclose that it was evaluating the preliminary results from an observational study of 11 558 pregnant HIV-positive women in Botswana.
Researchers in Botswana assessed the health of infants born to women in that study, saying that they had found a signal of concern indicating the possibility that women who took DTG at the time they became pregnant had an increased risk of giving birth to an infant with a type of birth defect referred to as a neural tube defect.
Such defects affect the brain and spinal cord.
However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended earlier treatment initiation and use of DTG, saying it was a more potent antiretroviral, with fewer side effects and high genetic barriers preventing drug resistance for people living with HIV.
“We welcome the new WHO guidelines that embrace current science and recommend early treatment initiation, as well as the use of a new generation of antiretrovirals such as dolutegravir,” Mohammed Msefer, regional director of Intellectual Property and Access to Medicines Lead in the Middle East and North Africa region, said.
In 2014, voluntary licences on DTG were given allowing Indian manufacturers to supply 121 developing countries, which include Zimbabwe, with generic versions of the drug.