Pharmacies get TB, HIV greenlight

Pharmacies get TB, HIV greenlight

Given the accessibility of pharmacies to most South Africans — Clicks says half of the country’s population now lives within 5.2 kilometres of one of its outlets — the announcement that pharmacies have been given the green light to allow specially trained pharmacists to manage and prescribe medication to patients with HIV and tuberculosis (TB) is particularly encouraging, providing them with increased access to medicines.

Pharmacists permitted to prescribe HIV and TB medication need to have successfully completed the Pharmacy-Initiated Management of Antiretrovial Treatment (Primart) training course.

HIV and TB remain very prevalent in South Africa. It is estimated that more than eight-million people are HIV positive, with the country recording a small annual uptick in HIV-related deaths. In 2021, approximately 300,000 new TB infections were recorded, with the disease resulting in 56,000 deaths. This is despite TB being preventable and curable. However, the disease needs to be treated early to stop infections from spreading and so patients don’t become resistant to the drugs used to treat it.

A new TB vaccine aimed at stopping people from contracting the disease is undergoing clinical trials. While there are many TB vaccines in various stages of testing, the one showing the most promise for ending TB is M72.

In South Africa, newborn babies receive the bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine developed in 1921 to protect them against TB. The effect of the BCG vaccine only lasts 10 to 15 years. If the M72 lives up to its promises, it could provide a booster vaccine to provide teenagers and adults with protection against TB.

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