Substandard Drugs Cause Resistance to AIDS Treatments

Sunday, August03, 2008 

As the 17th International AIDS Conference kicks off in Mexico, the Campaign for Fighting Diseases warns that the "public health" approach to treating the disease could creating devastating levels of drug resistance in poor countries.

Independent studies are showing increasing rates of resistance to AIDS treatments in poorer countries. Much of this could be due to patients being given substandard drugs that would not be considered acceptable in wealthier countries.

Frequently untested copy drugs from India have formed the backbone of UN-backed AIDS treatment programmes in Africa. These drugs are selected because of their cheap cost, making it easier and quicker to hit treatment targets.  Millions of doses have been distributed.   

The risks to patient safety and increased drug resistance of this approach are exacerbated by weak health infrastructure, which means that patients are often not properly tested and monitored. 

Resistant patients will then require second or third line treatments, which can be nine times as expensive. In addition, drug resistant patients often require more hospitalisation, placing an enormous strain on fragile health systems. 

Whilst billion-dollar pledges for AIDS make for good headlines, this money will do long-term harm unless quality of treatment is given just as much consideration as quantity.

Donors and intergovernmental organisations must recognise the global threat of drug resistance and not worsen the problem by cutting corners in their pursuit of self-imposed targets.



Cost of second and third line replacement therapies refers to estimates by Médecins Sans Frontières that treating 59 AIDS sufferers with 2nd-line therapies costs the same as treating 550 AIDS sufferers with 1st-line therapies.


For more information contact Philip Stevens on +44 20 7836 0752 or at