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Last Updated: Friday, 1 August, 2003, 14:34 GMT 15:34 UK
SA media alarm at Aids drug move

The South African media is expressing outrage at a recent decision by the country's Medicine Control Council (MCC) to reject the findings of a study into the anti-Aids drug Nevirapine.

The Ugandan study said that Nevirapine was effective in blocking mother-to-child transmission of HIV, but the MCC called on the manufacturers to provide new data on the drug's effectiveness within 90 days, even though the World Health Organisation supports its use for pregnant women.

The fight against Aids in South Africa does not need another setback
The Star

"Thousands of HIV-positive women could be denied a chance to save their babies", says South Africa's The Star.

The paper criticises the MCC, "a body accused by some of succumbing to political influence", for refusing to approve the use of Nevirapine in pregnant women.

It points out that the drug will still be available to adults who have already used it.

But it adds that "doctors using it to save babies' lives risk being charged, fined and jailed for up to 10 years."

Innocent children

"Who is really on trial?", The Star asks.

It questions the wisdom of the MCC, warning that its decision "has hugely serious implications".

Another day, another drama in the fight against HIV/AIDS
Cape Argus

"And we must urge the council to consider its options carefully."

The paper insists that the MCC should consider the drug's effectiveness in reducing maternal transmission, insisting that "at stake are... the lives of thousands of innocent children."

"The fight against Aids in South Africa does not need another setback", the paper concludes.

Hopes 'in tatters'

An article on the News 24 website echoes the same sentiment and asks "What about the babies?"

"The hopes of thousands of pregnant women with HIV/Aids... may be in tatters."

It says that Boehringer Ingelheim, Nevirapine's manufacturer, and scientists were "astounded" by the MCC decision.

The Cape Argus paper writes: "Another day, another drama in the fight against HIV/Aids".

"And, of course, another couple of hundred South Africans dead because of the disease."

"So, confusion and anger reign again."

The paper warns that the deregistration of Nevirapine would force taxpayers to "fork out 300 rand for an alternative drug for each mother and child instead of the 16 rand it costs now."

Tragicomedy

The Mail and Guardian sees fault on both sides.

The paper writes: "Don't crow too soon over Nevirapine."

"How has this absurd situation - the latest in the continuing tragicomedy surrounding Aids treatment - arisen?", it asks.

It criticises the manufacturer of Nevirapine for submitting "flawed" paperwork in support of the drug's effectiveness.

But, it says "this does not fully excuse the MCC, which has chosen to override the WHO endorsement."

"It is unlikely that there has been direct official government pressure on MCC."

"But, there are said to be individuals on the council who have bees in their bonnet about... Nevirapine in particular", it concludes.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.




SEE ALSO:
SA anti-Aids drug shock
31 Jul 03  |  Africa
Can Africa handle Aids drugs?
15 Jul 03  |  Health
Country profile: South Africa
27 May 03  |  Country profiles


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