Médecins Sans Frontières announced that developing countries are having a difficult time providing HIV-positive children with WHO-recommended treatments.
The organization reported in a press release that this is because pharmaceutical companies have delayed making the products, or the drugs are too expensive or not been registered in the countries.
“Pharmaceutical corporations simply don’t consider children with HIV a priority, forcing us to use older, suboptimal treatments for the youngest people in our care that make it harder for them to stick to their treatment,” David Maman, medical coordinator for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Malawi, said in a press release. “Worse, increasing resistance to existing HIV medicines in sub-Saharan African countries means that the older treatments may not work in infants and children who are in urgent need of better treatment options. How long will children with HIV have to continue to suffer or die because of pure indifference?”
MSF noted that only 52% of HIV-positive children received treatments in 2017 and called pediatric HIV “a neglected disease.”
“Pharmaceutical companies must stop dragging their feet and address their delays and failure to develop appropriate formulations of HIV medicines for children,” MSF stated in the release.
MSF reported that dolutegravir, which is recommended by WHO as first-line treatment for infants and children, is not available in a dispersible tablet formulation, which would be easier for children to take.
A combination of lopinavir and ritonavir is the alternative to dolutegravir recommended by WHO, but MSF noted in the release that its pediatric formulation has been “plagued with problems.” The organization noted that Mylan and Cipla, which are manufacturing generic versions of the pediatric formulations in pellet and granule forms, have set high prices for the products that are supposed to replace the lopinavir/ritonavir syrup, which the MSF calls “harsh tasting.”
In the press release, MSF reported that a Vatican City meeting is planned for Dec. 6 to 7 for HIV stakeholders on scaling up diagnoses and treatment among children with HIV. It noted that at a meeting 1 year ago, “representatives from global health organizations and executives from pharmaceutical corporations committed to increasing access to treatment for children and adolescents living with HIV, but very little progress has been made.”
Disclosure: Infectious Diseases in Children was unable to confirm Maman’s relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.