HIV child medicine that cut the ‘yuck’ cleared in SA

About 13% of South Africa’s population, or 8.2 million people, are infected with the virus that causes auto-immune disease AIDS.
Image: Shutterstock

South Africa’s approval of two HIV therapies for children is likely to improve treatment compliance in the world’s worst affected nation as the new products are more palatable for infants than previous incarnations.

Babies and toddlers are prone to spit out medications they don’t like and the newly approved treatments take away the “yuck” factor, Linda-Gail Bekker, director of the Desmond Tutu HIV Center, said Tuesday.

“For the longest of time our kids have had to either take hard pills or bitter syrups which have been particularly foul tasting,” she said. “It’s not been child friendly.”

About 13% of South Africa’s population, or 8.2 million people, are infected with the virus that causes auto-immune disease AIDS. Without life-long treatment with anti-retroviral drugs the disease is fatal.

Cipla Ltd.’s quadrimune, which comes in strawberry flavoured granules that can be sprinkled on food or dissolved in milk or water, and fellow Indian drugmaker Macleods Pharmaceuticals Ltd.’s dolutegravir tablets were approved last week by the country’s Health Products Regulatory Authority.

Still, with the world’s biggest number of children infected with HIV — more than 310 000 — South Africa has a lot of work to do in stopping mother-to-child infection, also known as vertical transmissions.

In 2010, a global plan was launched for the elimination of the issue over five years. But while a lot of progress was made by 2015, “it was as if we’d got to half time in the game and then decided to go home because we were winning,” Bekker said.

Many companies started seeing little need, or money to be made, in focusing efforts on better pediatric formulas, she said. To make matters worse, during the Covid-19 pandemic there have been regions in Africa where such passing on of the HIV virus has risen.

“There are enormous amounts of babies being born with HIV,” Bekker said. In turn “a leading cause of death on this continent for adolescents is HIV. It’s extraordinary.”

© 2022 Bloomberg

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