In the news: New ‘test and treat’ HIV policy, Cipla vs the pharma pricing regulator and more

A wrap of the health news over the past week.

New HIV policy

On Friday, the government launched a new policy for the treatment of people with HIV and AIDS. The national AIDS control programme will now treat anyone found HIV positive, irrespective of their CD4 count.

CD4 T cells are immune system cells that are targeted by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. So far, the government has been providing free treatment to only those with CD4 counts below 500 and therefore at greater risk of contracting serious illnesses because of their compromised immune systems. Health Minister JP Nadda announced of Friday that as soon as a person is tested and found to be positive, they will be given antiretroviral therapy, irrespective of their CD count or the clinical stage of the illness.

There are and estimates 21 lakh people in India with HIV infection but only aout 14 lakh have been identified. In view of this, the government has also revised testing guidelines to reach out to vulnerable communities and, after counseling them anf with their consent, test members for HIV.

Health groups have welcomed the government’s decision to expand free treatment for HIV and AIDS. Director of UNAIDS for Asia-Pacific Steve Kraus told The Hindustan Times that the new policy would help contribute towards the goal of ending AIDS in India by 2030. The AIDS Society of India has also applauded the government’s move.

The government is also developing a National Strategic Plan for HIV control for the next seven years with the aim of ending AIDS in India.

Meanwhile, the global charity AIDS Healthcare Foundation launched a free condom store in India and the world, with the aim of reducing the number of new HIV infections. The store called Love Condoms allows organisations and individuals to place orders by phone or email to get condoms delivered to their doorsteps in any major city in India.

Cipla takes on NPPA on asthma drugs

On Saturday, the Delhi High Court sought the government’s response to plea by pharmaceutical company Cipla that the government had erroneously capped the prices of three asthma drugs, the Hindustan Times reported.

Cipla has contended that the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority or NPPA in a notification on April 1 “wrongly attempted” to apply the ceiling price for metered dose inhalers to the powdered form of the three drugs. Metered dose inhalers make the drug available in aerosol form.

Cipla’s advocates claimed that the authority capped the price of the powdered form of the drugs without following the procedure laid down in the Drug Price Control Orders, 2013. The powdered form of the drugs are are sold under the brand names Budecort, Tiova Rotacaps and Foracort.

During the hearing, the court asked the government whether the NPPA had made such a mistake to which the government’s counsel said that the powdered drug had not been erroneously clubbed with metered dose inhaler in the notification revising the cap on their prices. The court has now issued a notice to the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers and the NPPA and sought their replies by the hearing on May 12.

Delhi to prepare for dengue

Anticipating outbreaks of vector-borne diseases later this year, Delhi’s Lieutenant-Governor Anil Baijal has directed hospitals and medical institutions to keeps beds ready for dengue and chikungunya patients. Baijal was visiting Lok Nayak Hospital, GP Pant Institute and the Guru Nanak Eye Centre on Saturday to check on health facilites when he issued these directions.

The medical superintendent of informed Baijal that wards had been set aside for dengue and chikungunya patients. Baijal also instructed the hospital to ensure that patients with complications, like the elderly, were attended to with care.

Delhi has already seen 27 dengue and 79 chikungunya cases till mid-April this year. The city witnessed one of its worst outbreak of the two diseases last monsoon season with a total of 4,431 dengue cases and 7,760 chikungunya cases reported.

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