Drug Recall Hurts Poor HIV Patients

In many countries, no life-saving meds
By Heather McPherson,  Newser User
Posted Jul 23, 2007 5:00 PM CDT
Drug Recall Hurts Poor HIV Patients
A nurse takes a blood sample for an HIV/AIDS test from patient Luis Antonio Marropquin, 53, at a health unit in San Salvador, Wednesday , June 27 , 2007. The Salvadorean government has begun a campaign to provide free HIV testing to citizens. (AP Photo/Luis Romero)   (Associated Press)

In the wake of a drug recall by the Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche, tens of thousands of AIDS patients in the developing world no longer have access to lifesaving medicine. Last month, Roche announced a recall of the drug Viracept, after finding a hazardous chemical in some batches. But in many countries, no cost-effective substitute is available.

Patients have been left with an impossible choice: Take a drug that may be tainted, or discontinue treatment. Calling the recall a "disaster," one World Health Organization official charged Roche has failed to do enough to find alternative medicines. The drug company maintains it has been "actively working" with health officials and that the risk from affected batches is actually low. (More HIV stories.)

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