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New drug to ease HIV treatment

By Flavia Nassaka

Trioday is a single-pill combination of three drugs

Cipla Quality Chemicals Ltd, the Ugandan drug manufacturer, has launched a new drug which combines three different HIV drugs – Efavirenz, Lamivudine and Tenofavir.

The new drug, Trioday, is good news for patients as it taken once a day instead of the cocktails currently in use. Dr Peter Mugyenyi, the Director and Co-Founder of the Joint Clinical Research Centre (JCRC) says one pill a day, instead of three or four, simplifies treatment and improves the drug’s overall effectiveness.

“It is a big step forward from the cumbersome drug cocktails that used to be the only options for people living with HIV/AIDS,” Mugyenyi, who is the Independent Director on the Board of Cipla, said during the drug launch on Aug.9 at the Kampala Serena Hotel.

Doctors too are excited. Dr. Mary Nalubega of Nsambya Hospital says it is far easier to remember to take one pill than dealing with several at various intervals in a day since naturally people get busy or simply get tired of taking drugs several times a day.

“Not taking medicine regularly makes the virus regain energy multiplying faster leading to increased viral load and in the end weakening one’s body. After that,patients become prone to infections like persistent diarrhea, tuberculosis and oral candidiasis,” she says.

She says the drug will potentially cut down on treatment failure which has been occurring when missed doses lead to the virus becoming resistant to the medication, making them more vulnerable to a progression of their illness.

Dr. Catherine Ondoa, the Director General of the Uganda AIDS Commission told The Independent that this new innovation will complement efforts in preventing HIV as more people are going to be initiated on treatment.

Enrolling people living with HIV/AIDS on anti-retroviral treatment has three major benefits according to experts – for HIV-positive pregnant mothers, transmission to the babies is blocked while the health of the mother is also guarded so she can bring up her baby, for those born with the infection and those who acquire it in adult life, treatment restores their health, allowing them to live a productive life.

Research has shown that if an HIV infected person is put on treatment early and adheres to it, the virus levels in blood can be suppressed to a point that you significantly reduce transmission of the virus to others.

Uganda has been lagging on its goal of ensuring that 80% of people living with HIV receive ARVs by the end of 2015. According to recent figures from Uganda AIDS Commission, only half of the 1.4 million who need HIV treatment in the country are on Anti Retroviral drugs.  Atripla (a combination of efavirenz, tenofovir and emtricitabine) another one-pill, once-daily drug regimen which some people have been using is not accessible to everyone as its imported which makes it expensive for government to initiate everyone on treatment but, Cipla Quality Chemicals maintains they have drugs enough to supply the whole of East Africa.

Uganda becomes the first African country to produce a one pill, once daily drug regimen. Cipla Quality Chemicals Ltd in Sub-Saharan Africa is authorised to manufacture triple-combination anti-retroviral drugs.

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