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Africa: Zimbabwe Slammed By TB Drug Scarcity

The Ministry of Health and Child Care has cautioned over the insufficient Tuberculosis drugs vital for HIV/TB treatment.

The Permanent Secretary of Health and Child Care, Air Commodore Dr Jasper Chimedza in a letter addressed to all Provincial Medical Directors, indicated that the government is facing a shortage of Rifabutin 150mg tablets used in the treatment for TB/HIV co-infected patients.

“The country is currently faced with a shortage of Rifabutin 150mg tablets used in the treatment of Drug sensitive Tuberculosis (DS-TB) among TB/HIV co-infected patients on second line antiretroviral therapy (ART),” he stated.

Dr Chimedza added that the shortages are linked with active pharmaceutical ingredient quality issues at the manufacturer level.

“The next shipment delivery is expected in mid-2021. Based on the current stock levels of the commodity, the country will be stocked out by the end of November 2020,” he lamented.

Tuberculosis is among the top ten killers in the world according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The infectious disease is especially dangerous for people living with HIV and AIDS.

Dr Chimedza recommended clinicians to stop introducing all new patients on Rifabutin based on regimen.

“Clinicians are recommended to initiate patients on a Rifampicin based regimen (2RHZE/2RTRH), substitute Atazanavir\Ritonavir (LPV/r) either give LPV/r twice daily (double the dose) or increase Ritonavir to 400mg (super boosting),”

He also recommended the clinicians to monitor closely for potential harmful effects due to the high dosage.

TB is one of the leading killers of people living with HIV. People who are infected with HIV are 20 – 30 times more likely to develop active TB. The risk of death in co-infected patients is twice that of those infected with only HIV. They are the most likely to suffer from the shortages.

No access to medication may also lead to a weaker immune system making way for other adaptable diseases.

The presence of the Coronavirus pandemic is also a threat to a weak immune system.

Shortage of TB medication poses serious problems for the healthcare sector which is already under-resourced with human capital due to ongoing job action over salaries.

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