What will happen if India runs out of an extremely critical HIV drug tenofovir/lamivudine tablets in three weeks? At worst it will lead to an increase in patient drug resistance and the virus may be spread faster. But will it ensure government intervention not only in providing drugs but formulating a carefully vetted policy is hard to say. If the decision to withdraw price capping powers of the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority which until then was regulating prices of crucial and widely prescribed anti-diabetes, cancer, HIV, tuberculosis and cardiac medicines wasn’t enough, this development regarding the non availability of HIV drug stocks is surely going to cause unremitting pain and agony for many patients rich as well as poor.
In a media report that came out in one of the leading English dailies a senior official from the National Aids Control Organisation (NACO), the nodal body for HIV in India can be heard as saying that the body is also fed up, is unaware of any way out and that there are many bureaucratic entanglements that have caused these delays. Should we deduce that even a critical government agency is of no good or should we rewire ourselves to understand that India, because of its corruption marred ineffective public system will never be able to eradicate itself from such life threatening medical conditions? Agreed, these may be stifling times for a country which has more than two million HIV patients, but how justified is the fact that the Indian health secretary, Lov Verma told a news agency as recently as 4 September, that the situation wasn’t as grave as the activists were making it look.
In fact, if Cipla, one of the largest global pharmaceutical companies, is to be believed, then it might take two months for the government to bridge this gap. The mess the public health infrastructure now suddenly finds itself in, is self manufactured and there clearly is no way out. If accountability setting could have solved even an iota of the problem, the situation could have been different. It will be interesting to see, how the public health sector will now be bracing itself to cater to PM Modi’s promise of affordable healthcare.