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HIV 'magic pill' continues despite side effects

OOKEDITSE MALESELA
The Ministry of Health and Wellness has no intention of terminating the use of Dolutegravir (DTG), which is used for newly HIV diagnosis as a first line medication.

When briefing the Parliament last week Friday, the assistant minister of Health and Wellness Biggie Butale said that the concern that Dolutegravier may be causing birth defects involving brain and spine (Neural Tubal Defects-NTD) is not yet confirmed, therefore there are no plans to end the use of the drug.

He was answering a question from the Member of Parliament of Tlokweng Kenneth Segokgo, who wanted to know if the Ministry intended terminating the use of DTG with reports of some women on DTG regimen, giving birth to babies with NTD. 

Butale said stated that the study, conducted May showed that only four babies out of 385, representing I.04%, born of women who conceived using the DTG regimen had been born with NTDs.

The assistant minister said it was natural for women on any HIV treatment drug to give birth to NTDs babies because the percentage increases. He added that babies could be born with NTDs from HIV negative women and also from women on other non-DTG regimens. To that end, Butale

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said, the ministry decided not to give the medication to women who desire to fall pregnant.

Butale said because there was more chance of children on mothers on DTG to be affected, there is an ongoing follow-up surveillance. The results of this surveillance are expected to come on April/May 2019 

“The medication was trialed and tested in USA and other countries and it was found to be offering many advantages for people living with HIV.  However, DTG was brought to Botswana two years back as a newly introduced drug in the market. We cannot say the drug was trialed and tested on pregnant women in Botswana. Overall, DTG is a very good medicine with a low profile for drug resistance and suppresses the virus very quickly,” Butale said.

Dolutegravir is an FDA-approved antiretroviral therapy used with other antiretroviral to treat HIV. The drug works by blocking integrase, an enzyme, to prevent the virus from multiplying, and can reduce the viral role.



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