As many as 637 people, including 389 children, living with HIV have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to look into an alleged delay in payments to pharmaceutical company Cipla, which has led to the firm discontinuing a life-saving drug. The company has stopped producing the Lopinavir syrup citing “delay in payments by the national programme for the HIV medicines by several years and even non-payment of its dues in many cases”, reported The Hindu.

The March 4 letter addressed to the PM, the finance minister and the health minister, requests the administration to “look into the matter of HIV drug stock out, in general, and in particular paediatric HIV medicines to ensure that they are not merely exported but also actually available to the children in this country”.

Cipla had stopped participating in government tenders after non-payment for its consignments by the Health Ministry in 2014.

The ministry has asked State AIDS Control Societies to buy the drug from local markets. “An emergency tender has been placed but we have instructed SACS and State Governments to purchase from local markets,” Arun Panda, Additional Secretary, Health Ministry, told The Hindu.

However, Cipla was the only company producing the drug, so it is not in stock in local markets either.