SC Seeks Centre’s Response on Shortage of HIV Drugs in India

HIV/AIDS Law Insider

Priyanka Singh

Published on: September 20, 2022 at 21:02 IST

The Supreme Court bench consisting Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Hima Kohli issued notice recently on a petition filed by Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS, a registered society.

The plea was against shortage of antiretroviral drugs in the nation.

The bench observed that the tender for 2021-22 due in August 2021 was issued in December 2021 by the petitioner, but failed to get hand of the tender and a fresh tender was again issued in the month of March, 2022 by the authorities.

The petition, thus, prayed protection of Right to Health and Life of People Living with HID/AIDS (PLHIVs) who face the risk of developing HIV advanced diseases.

The petition by Advocate Astha Sharma submits that the failure of procurement of drugs reflects the failures in procurement system and the systemic failures causing it. [Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS and Ors. vs. Union of India and Ors. – WP (C) 686/2022]

It further submits that the interruptions in the treatment of PLHIVs due to unavailability of the ARVs increase their chances of falling ill “due to AIDS, heightening their risk of death.”

Emphasizing on the importance of the Anti-Retro Viral Treatment, it is submitted by the petitioner that, “Strict adherence to ART is non-negotiable for a person living with HIV, and ART needs to be taken every 24hrs or 12hrs (depending on the prescription without fail life-long.”

“Non-adherence to the ART, and skipping any of the medicines given under the therapy, allows the virus to multiply and even increases the risk of the virus mutating into a drug-resistant version.”

The petition holds the Central Medical Service Society (CMSS) responsible for ensuring that the tendering for the supply of medicines provided under different government programs is made regularly.

The plea therefore, contends to ensure such supply to be made.

The petitioner has also highlighted the fact that there have been other several instances where the petitioner had suffered and failed in the ART adherence, subject to unavailability of the shortage at the ART Centers.

The writ petition reads, “Representations were sent in 2014 seeking that timely procurement of ARV drugs for children be made, as ART centres were facing shortage of the same. In 2017, there was a stock-out of the essential HIV medicine – lopinavir/ritonavir for infants and young children.”

“Living with the imminent threat of death, the children living with HIV had then written to the Hon’ble Prime Minister to ensure immediate procurement of the drugs. The stock-out of ARVs during this time was spread over six states.”

Since January, 2022, the ART centres in several states have gone out of stock, says the plea.

In July, Delhi Centres reported a stock-out of ARVs alongside shortages in several other states.

The petitioner submits an instance of the Manipur State AIDS Control Society that has been seeking third-party donations to keep up with the stocks, also highlighting the fact that NACO is aware of the situation and had recommended a change in regimen as a temporary measure to deal with the shortage, but the measures have been since temporary.

The plea says, “The Petitioners herein, continue to be aggrieved by the continued stock-out of life-saving ARVs, with no response from the concerned authorities to a to assuage their concerns, and to ensure that the short fall is met.”

The petitioners have prayed to issue a writ directing the authorities to seek support from UN and UN agencies and utilize their emergency procurement mechanism.

It is prayed that the procurement must be of quality, non-expired ARVs that are WHO qualified, and must be available at all ART Centers.

The petition seeks the constitution of a committee set up comprising Respondents and Petitioners for regular tendering and procurement of ARVs and diagnostics for HIV/AIDS treatment.

Related Post