TREATMENT Advocacy Literacy Campaign (TALC) national director Felix Mwanza has expressed concern over the slow pace in the procurement process of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, warning that this could cause treatment failure.

Mwanza however said other types of ARVs were not in short supply and citizens taking those did not need to panic.

In April, the Ministry of Health confirmed the distortion in the supply chain of Tenoffovir, Lamivudine and Effavirenze (TLE) ARV’s.

In an interview, Wednesday, Mwanza said he expected that the procurement process would be completed earlier in order to avoid a situation where the country ran out of drugs.

“We are a bit worried especially with the pace at which the procurement is being processed. Because by now, we were hoping that the processes would have been finalised and the drugs could have been stocked by now and the consignment would have been in the country. As it is, it was only yesterday when the final procurement process was finalised. So that is a big concern on our part,” Mwanza said.

“The status quo is that the stocks of TLE are still low. And I think as at yesterday, the Ministry of Health had just finalised all the procurement so that other consignments are brought in. So that is the position in as far as TLE is concerned. Then in the other ARV’s, the situation is actually good and people should not actually panic very much. But we can assure that even though the stocks are low, we do not have a stock out yet. I think that is gratifying to note that measures are actually being put in place to avoid stock completely run out. Our appeal to members of the public as well as people living with HIV is that they do not need to despair at the moment because the situation is still under control.” Mwanza said.

“We are following up like we have promised and the fact that we are talking about it now and giving an update means that we are actually pursuing the matter. We are constantly engaging with the Ministry of Health to ensure that the TLE stocks do not run out.”

He attributed the disruption of the drug supply chain to the impact triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Well the supply chain of ARV’s has been distorted because of what has happened globally. You know that we have had issues in as far as Covid-19 is concerned, therefore it has affected the procurement in as far as ARVs are concerned globally. The situation at the moment of ARV is purely a global issue triggered by the hiccups in as far as Covid-19 is concerned,”

Mwanza appealed to the Ministry of Health to expedite the drug procurement process to avoid drug treatment failure.

“Yes, what is needed to just actually expedite the process in being proactive all the time knowing that because of the COVID-19, it is not going to be business as usual. So as a result all procurement agencies have slowed, not only within the Ministry of Health, I think everywhere, especially dealing with health supply. There is just need to be proactive and be on top of their game. The global issue in as far as the Covid-19 is concerned, it is always that we improve on the timings and give priority to the procurement process,” said Mwanza.

“With ARV’s when you do not have, then you do not have. And it means that someone elsewhere is going to go on without taking drugs and there are serious repercussions of not taking those drugs. That is worrying us and that is what should also worry the ministry. Once supply is distorted and people stop taking drugs it means treatment failure and that is what we cannot afford as a country at the moment,”

The distortion in the supply chain involving Tenoffovir, Lamivudine and Effavirenz (TLE) can affect about 55,000 of the adult population of the 1.2 million people on treatment countrywide.