Nigeria Begins AIDS Drug Program After Delay
After a one week delay from a scheduled Sept. 1 kick-off, Nigerian officials on Friday began an AIDS treatment pilot program to supply inexpensive antiretroviral drugs to HIV-positive citizens, the AP/Nando Times reports. Health Minister Alphonsus Nwosu told journalists that he "would rather have the program right and the deadline wrong, than vice versa," although he "admitted" that the generic drugs have not yet been received and the medication administration and tracking system has not been completely developed. The country's $4 million program will only provide drugs to 10,000 adults and 5,000 children, a "tiny fraction" of those infected. Indian generic drug maker Cipla Ltd. has contracted with Nigeria to sell a three-drug combination for $350 per year per patient; program participants will pay $120, with the government subsidizing the remaining cost. Ranbaxy Laboratories, another India-based drug firm, is also being considered to supply drugs to the program. Officials face several challenges in administering the program, including fraudulent HIV claims from the nation's "notorious crime rings" that are trying to pose as patients to obtain the drugs and resell them on the black market, and NGOs representing people with HIV/AIDS who are "aggressively lobbying" the government to distribute the drugs through their organizations (McKenzie, AP/Nando Times, 9/7).This is part of the Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.