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WHO to phase out HIV drug Stavudine, warns Indian users
Satyarth Prakash Nayak / CNN-IBN
Published on Mon, Dec 28, 2009
New Delhi: The World Health Organisation (WHO) wants countries to phase out the HIV drug Stavudine, that more than 1 lakh Indians use.
Like any other parent, an HIV-positive mother, Suman, worries about her daughter, but with a crucial difference. Like Suman, the six-year-old Bhumika is a HIV positive. She's been using the drug Stavudine for the past five years, as part of the government-paid Antiretroviral treatment. A drug that the WHO now wants to phase it out world-wide.
"She has been taking the drug for five years now. Doctor says the drug will have to be changed after a while. So far she is fine, but I am worried about whether she will develop side effects at any point of time," said Mother (Suman).
Stavudine is one of the cheapest drugs, given as first line treatment for HIV/AIDS worldwide for the past 15 years.
In India, 45 per cent of the 3 lakh people relying on anti-retroviral treatment are given Stavudine.
"The drug is not safe. It removes fat from the face and limbs and deposits them in the trunk area leading to humps or bulging bellies etc. It causes metabolic side effects like increased cholesterol and problems for diabetics. In fact private doctors had started phasing it out long back - use is minimal now," said HIV Specialist of Apollo Hospital, Dr Nalin Nag.
The drug Tenofivir is being recommended as the safer substitute, but it's twice as expensive as Stavudine.
"Government never wakes up in time to emerging needs. The drug must be phased out. We have the resources to do so, there is no reason why we must continue with it. Government must take care of any shortage, " said Anjali Gopalan of Naaz Foundation.
"I cannot afford a shortage to happen. My husband was HIV+ - he passed away due to a gap in his second-line drug regimen. Now I have this fear that I should not lose my daughter." added Suman.
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