The government had phased out the ARV drugs in the country in 2019 due to their adverse side effects – Since then, ARVs drugs had been lying in the KEMSA warehouse for months now, despite the directive to have them disposed – In March 2020, Kemsa had indicated that it had destroyed the toxic drugs and that they were no longer in stock – Stakeholders have blasted the government for putting lives patients in danger and demanded for action to be taken against those responsible for the blunder.
KEMSA had, on Tuesday, April 20, released 29 types of ARVs drugs in 24,800 packs to 31 counties worth KSh 1.2 million, which had been phased out in the country in 2019.
Some patients said they were surprised the government was still keeping the drugs despite having been found to be toxic. “We are surprised that the drugs are still in the warehouse after we were informed that they had been destroyed. It is better to wait for the right drugs than taking toxic drugs,” said Nelson Otwoma, national coordinator, National Empowerment Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS He said their release amounted to the government playing with the lives of its citizens. Maureen Murenga, activist and executive director of Lean on Me Foundation, said the government should take health issues seriously because it concerns people lives. “It is scary since it will be given to people who have taken a stronger version of the Antiretroviral Therapy, and we do not know what that will come to,” she added. The other consignment were displaced to the remaining 16 counties on Tuesday, April 27
Some HIV patients reported adverse reactions which were not normal after using the drugs, which they had never experienced. The phased-out drug was Zidovudine/Lamivudine/Nevirapine, which the Ministry of Health had indicated that Nevirapine would no longer be used in the country. According to a report by Daily Nation, despite the adult tablet being declared as unfit for use, KEMSA still went ahead and released it to counties. The distributed drugs were old stock, donated from the Global Fund and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and was said to have been kept at the warehouse for months. In March 2020, KEMSA had indicated that it had destroyed the toxic drugs and were no longer in stock.