The Health ministry has warned counties to stop prescribing a HIV drug
linked to birth defects in HIV-positive women. Through Director of
Medical Services Jackson Kioko, the ministry has further directed
county health directors to ensure that pregnant and breastfeeding
mothers to whom a front-line drug, dolutegravir (DTG), has been
prescribed, continue their current prescription until they stop
breastfeeding. But those of child bearing age between 15 and 49 years,
who are on the drug, should be given the first-line treatment
Efavirenz. In a memo to county directors of health, Dr Kioko said the
drug, which was launched in the Kenyan market last year, was not
recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding women “due to limited
safety data”. He, however, added that through a circular in June 2017,
the ministry had recommended the use of DTG in alternative regimen for
people with HIV and has intolerance to Efavirenz, people who inject
drugs and are on anti-retroviral therapy or new patients in the same
category. It was recommended to be part of the third-line drug for
patients. Who were not responding to the available second line
anti-retroviral therapy drugs. Dr Kioko’s memo, comes barely three
weeks after the Nation highlighted that two international drug
regulators had warned that a generic version of an antiretroviral drug
can cause birth defects in pregnant women. He also noted that as per
the 2017 circular, adolescents and adult men on the first-line ARV
drugs will be started on DTG. “The ministry encourages all healthcare
providers to be vigilant in identification and reporting of adverse
drug reactions related to ARVs,” he added. The international
regulators, US Food and Drugs Administration and the European
Medicines Agency last month warned that new studies indicate that
women with HIV taking the drug at the time of conception or during the
first trimester of pregnancy appear to be at higher risk of giving
birth to babies with neural tube defects. Neural tube defects are
birth defects that can occur early in pregnancy when the spinal cord,
brain, and related structures do not form properly.

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