Safety concerns have forced the Department of Health to delay its plans to provide HIV patients with dolutegravir, a cheaper and more tolerable alternative to one of the components currently used in the three-drug cocktail taken by most state patients. The development is not only bad news for patients, but also throws a spanner in the works of the state’s plans to increase the number of HIV patients on treatment from 3.9-million to over 6-million by 2020-21. The department planned to provide patients with a generic fixed-dose combination pill containing tenofovir, lamivudine and dolutegravir in September, but was now unlikely to do so before next April, said Yogan Pillay, its deputy director-general. Dolutegravir will replace efavirenz in the three-drug pill. In May, the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority and medicine regulators in the US and Europe sounded a warning over dolutegravir, after a small study in Botswana reported birth defects among pregnant women who we...

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