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Over 5,000 Adverse Reactions to HIV Drugs Reported to NDA

Because of drug toxicity, Sekyaana says they have had to withdraw some drugs and made recommendations for review of treatment guidelines which they have realized negatively impact retention of clients on treatment.

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Through its platform put in place for the public to report any suspected side effects to drugs, the National Drug Authority (NDA) has recorded over 5000 adverse effects to Anti-Retroviral Therapies (ARVs).

According to the NDA Public Relations Officer Fredrick Sekyaana, they set up a platform for people to report what they experience while they take the drugs in order to intervene in case drugs are doing more harm to the patient. 

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  The adverse reactions range from mild ones such as hyper pigmentation of soles and palms,  loss of appetite, sleep loss, headache,  gaining fat in certain parts of the body, diarrhea and fatigue, to serious complications especially with long stay on treatment such as liver damage.

This revelation in a way validates lengthy debate over toxicity which has had a many of people testify about tough complications they have had to endure arising from treatment.

One of such persons who has been vocal about toxicity is Dr. Stephen Watiti, one of the first medical workers to come public about his HIV status who revealed to this reporter in an earlier interview that the first drugs he was taking before being enrolled on second line treatment killed his nerves. To date he said many Ugandans can’t afford latest medicines which have minimal side effects. 

Watiti spoke of how he was first enrolled on a drug called stavudine which has since been phased out because of severe side effects. He said the medicine could cause women to lose their hips and some clients develop a hump on their backs.

Because of this drug toxicity, Sekyaana says they have had to withdraw some drugs and made recommendations for review of treatment guidelines as they have realized they negatively impact retention of clients on treatment.  He says the authority has authorized up to 61 clinical trials relating to treatment to be conducted whereby some 52 are still on-going. 

Already, Uganda is still lagging in terms of people who have adhered to treatment and suppressed the virus. According to Ministry of Health figures only 78% of the 1.2million people on treatment to have suppressed the virus. 

Even as this figure is above average, Dr. Joshua Musinguzi who heads the AIDS Control Programme at the Ministry of Health says a big number of people have had to be shifted from first line treatment, to second line treatment and a few others to third line treatments which are much more expensive to acquire, all because of failure by clients to adhere to their initial treatment. Part of the reason as to why they don’t sustain treatment is due to side effects that they can’t bear.