MSF TREATS FIRST CMV RETINITIS PATIENTS IN MYANMAR WITH ORAL DRUG
July 23 18:40
SINGAPORE, July 23 (Bernama) -- Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) announced that for the first time in Myanmar, patients have begun receiving oral treatment for Cytomegalovirus (CMV) retinitis, a neglected opportunistic disease linked to HIV/AIDS which can cause permanent blindness.
In a statement here on Wednesday, MSF said the announcement was made during the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia.
Although this drug has been available since 2001 in the developed world, the only treatment option available in Myanmar until now was once-weekly injections directly into the eye, an extremely uncomfortable procedure for the patient that requires carefully trained doctors.
Following years-long price negotiations with the drug company, Roche, MSF is now providing its patients in Dawei, southern Myanmar, with valganciclovir, a simple pill to be taken daily for up to six months.
This is the first time MSF has been able to use this pill in any of its HIV/AIDS projects around the world.
All of MSF’s patients diagnosed with CMV retinitis in Myanmar will be receiving valganciclovir by 2015.
While MSF welcomes this breakthrough, the organisation is urging that the price of valganciclovir is reduced further, particularly through generic competition from other drug manufacturers.
Medical director of MSF’s Access Campaign, Dr Jennifer Cohn said although this was a very positive step – bringing relief to patients and making treatment of the disease easier for medical care providers – much more still needed to be done to bring prices down and expand access to this crucial medicine.
She said the current negotiated price with Roche is approximately US$280 for a bottle of 60 tablets, and up to US$1,960 per patient for a 27-week course of treatment which was clearly still far out of reach for many patients in CMV-endemic countries.