The government of Tanzania plans to include a new generic version of the anti-retroviral drug Dolutegravir (DTG) in the national HIV/Aids treatment protocols.
Kenya became the first African country to include the drug in its treatment programmes.
The Minister of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Ms Ummy Mwalimu, told The Citizen in an exclusive interview on Tuesday that the ARV had been lined up for registration and licensing by the Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA).
A generic of DTG, first approved in the United States in 2013, is being given to 20,000 patients in Kenya before being rolled out in Nigeria and Uganda later this year, with the backing of Unitaid, the global health initiative working to end tuberculosis, HIV/Aids and malaria epidemics.
“Shipments (of the drug) are scheduled to start in January 2018 after the TFDA’s registration process is completed,’’ Ms Mwalimu told The Citizen.
She added that Tanzania would start using the generic drug in combination with other ARVs.
DTG, whose brand name is Tivicay, is produced by ViiV Healthcare, which is majority-owned by British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline.
Ms Mwalimu did not say where and how the drug would be procured, although she was categorical that it would not be imported from Kenya.
Uganda has already announced that it would start importing the drug later July, and priority would be given to patients who have developed resistance to existing first line drugs.
DTG is the drug of choice for people with HIV in high-income countries who have never taken antiretroviral therapy before and for those who have developed resistance to other ARVs, according to Unitaid reports.
According to the Tanzania Commission for Aids (Tacaids), the rate of new HIV infections in Tanzania is 0.36 per cent, meaning that out of every 1,000 people, about 32 are infected. Tacaids’ target is to reach zero new infections through the adoption of various new intervention approaches.
There are currently an estimated 36.7 million people living with HIV worldwide.