amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

Enhancing Access to Newer HIV and Hepatitis C Medications in Asia

With the availability of newer drugs for HIV and hepatitis C still limited in much of the Asia-Pacific region, TREAT Asia organized a roundtable discussion with the goal of improving access to these lifesaving medications. The event, held from September 25 to 26 in Bangkok, was planned in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) South East Asia Regional Office (SEARO) and Western Pacific Regional Office (WPRO).

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(Left to right) Ms. Liudmyla Maistat, Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi);
Ms. Leena Menghaney, MSF Access Campaign; and Ms. Janice Lee, DNDi

“Although these drugs are often manufactured in Asia, the regulatory approvals to ensure their availability and uptake in national programs have scope for improvement,” said Giten Khwairakpam, TREAT Asia’s program manager for community and policy. Participants, from nine Asian countries attended the roundtable, along with representatives from the Clinton Health Access Initiative, Medicines Patent Pool, Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative, UNAIDS, and the WHO.

The discussion focused on enhancing access to direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) to treat hepatitis C, as well as the newer HIV medications, including dolutegravir (DTG), the fixed-dose combination of tenofovir/lamivudine/dolutegravir (TLD), and the 4-in-1 pediatric formulation of ritonavir-boosted lopinavir with abacavir or zidovudine and lamivudine. Participants explored recent scientific data on the clinical benefits and development pipelines of the medicines, the status of regulatory approvals, current intellectual property issues involved in expanding access, and avenues to achieve fast-track approval by national regulators.

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(Left to right) Mr. Chase Perfect, Coalition Internationale SIDA; Ms. Jessica Burry, MSF Access Campaign; and Dr. Manisha Shridhar, World Health Organization, SEARO

“The meeting was an opportunity for representatives from intellectual property offices, national regulatory bodies, and program managers to come together to explore means to enhance availability, use, and access to these new medicines in national programs,” said Dr. Manisha Shridhar of WHO SEARO.

In the Asia-Pacific region, some countries have been “early adopters” of medications such as TLD. The Philippines, for example, has used a WHO collaborative process for drug registration to fast-track the registration of medicines for HIV and other conditions. Lao PDR has also started using TLD in its national program. Reports of the ongoing experiences of these two countries were presented at the meeting.

Participants at “Roundtable Discussion: Enhancing Access to Newer HIV and Hepatitis C Medications,” September 25–26, 2018 Bangkok, Thailand (Click on photo to enlarge)

“The discussions led to improved understanding of the situation on access to HIV and hepatitis medicines, and how countries overcame barriers in access, paving the way for regulatory approvals and the use of these medicines in national programs,” said Dr. Takeshi Nishijima from WHO WPRO.

“We plan to continue this collaboration and regularly share information to sharpen strategies for enhancing access to these medications,” said Mr. Khwairakpam. “Knowing what has worked and what hasn’t will make us better able to influence policy and improve national drug programs.”