Patients in Malta are still scrambling to find crucial medicine while the country faces mass shortages of HIV treatment.
“The government has a lot to answer for,” HIV activist from Prepping Malta and lawyer Mark Joseph Rapa told Lovin Malta.
After several HIV patients raised the alarm after being unable to obtain their medicine, the health ministry explained that the crisis boiled down to a wider shortage in Europe. Meanwhile, the Chief Medicine Officer told Malta Gay Rights Movement that it was partially due to Brexit.
But Rapa believes more can and must be done to care for HIV patients stuck in limbo.
“There are ways and means of getting essential medicine into the country.”
“The government could reach out to international health organisations like the World Health Organisation or relevant European bodies to see how they can procure medication quickly – even that same day,” Rapa stressed.
And even if it was due to Brexit, Rapa continued, why wasn’t Malta prepared for these disruptions?
“They said the medicine was stuck in Heathrow on Friday. It’s been four days – where is the medicine? Why isn’t the government updated its patients personally? Why is it relying on NGOs to decimate such crucial information?” he continued.
Rapa criticised the way in which the state was handling the crisis, even before shortages led some patients to resort to rely on other patients for pills.
“At least three medications ran out of stock, and we have no decency to even say we’re sorry.”
New HIV treatment will be introduced to the local market in the near future, the ministry revealed, with €3 million allocated to fund it. However, the whole process isn’t keeping stakeholders informed, according to Rapa.
“Even if we’re reducing the number of medications available for the transition to a new treatment, we need proper direction.”
“Transitioning 500 patients to newer treatment does not happen overnight especially when you only have one HIV clinic session a week and labs that had their resources rerouted for COVID-19,” he added.
Meanwhile, clinicians still haven’t received guidance and protocols on the new medicines.
“Clinicians haven’t got the go-ahead to switch patients to the new drugs, even though we have sources saying that it has already arrived in Malta. What are they waiting for?”
Despite concerns raised, the Health Ministry insists there is enough supply to meet the demand for HIV medicine, until the full order arrives later this month.
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