Stockouts in Argentina threaten continuation of HIV treatments

One of the costly side-effects of Argentina’s economic crisis is the stockout of essential medicines, with HIV and Hepatitis C treatment severely disrupted.

Sources from within the Ministry of Health (MoH) have told our partner, Fundación Grupo Efecto Positivo (FEGP), that planned purchases cannot be made due to money not arriving.

There has been fractured delivery of essential HIV drugs medicines, causing shortages or outright stockouts of ARVs since January 2016. Organizations of people living with HIV raised the alert, when numerous reports of people returning from health centres without their treatment began.

Over the last two years the situation continued to worsen and in January 2018 this reached crisis point. The Head of the National AIDS Program (NAP) informed the media that the NAP’s allocated budget had not been received.

There are 122,000 people living with HIV in Argentina with 69,200 people on treatment. Seventy percent of those (46,518) receive their medicines through the public health service.

According to a report FGEP received from the Ministry of Health in January 2018, only four of the 42 ARVs that make up Argentina’s treatment plan were bought in 2017.

This year, according to the MoH and UNAIDS, there have been orders placed for 15 ARVs, and direct-acting antivirals (DAAs) used in Hep C treatment, however they are still pending payment. While these orders remain unpaid, the delivery of ARVs will also remain stalled, and individuals’ treatment is at risk. 

One HIV treatment regimen (TDF + EFV + FTC) has been sourced through the PAHO Strategic Fund for the last two years. More than 10,000 people in Argentina have been prescribed this treatment. The procurement has been severely delayed, and MoH sources have informed FGEP that the order will be unfulfilled due to the Ministry’s lack of available financing.

If the MoH continues not receive its vital funding, the impending worry is that stockouts will continue throughout 2018: “We are concerned about the Ministry of Health not being able to sustain procurement of medicines. The lives of thousands of people in Argentina depends on the public system. The economic crisis in Argentina should not be an excuse for failing people”, says Lorena Di Giano, Executive Director of FGEP.   

FGEP is monitoring the procurement of treatment as part of its strategy to improve access to medicines. On 12 July 2018 Fundación GEP held a seminar and released the results of a report, detailing FGEP’s strategies to mitigate the the impact of intellectual property on ARVs and Hep C medicines, focusing on the last four years. Since 2012 FGEP has been filing pre-grant patent oppositions with Argentina’s patent office, INPI (National Institute of Industrial Property). These actions have brought the prices of key ARVs and Hepatitis C medicines down, and achieving more than $160 million (USD) in savings. “These savings could, and must be used to procure essential medicines, and permanently put an end to stock outs in the country, which in the long-term are more costly to the health budget, and more importantly human life,” states Di Giano.