ITPC China works to eliminate d4T

The International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC) – China is working to support the immediate phase out of d4T, an anti-retroviral drug that has serious side effects. For several years, the World Health Organization (WHO) has raised concerns over d4T’s high levels of toxicity, and no longer recommends it as an optimal first line ARV.
Although China’s government has vowed to phase-out the drug, it remains common in many rural areas, due to the drug’s relatively inexpensive cost. In 2012, it was estimated that 26 per cent of the 140,000 people living with HIV (PLHIV) in China were still taking d4T.
According to ITPC-China Regional Coordinator Hongwei Lu, phasing out d4T will require a significant investment on behalf of the government into procurement of TDF, a suggested first-line alternative. It also requires improved treatment literacy among PLHIV. “Some patients who experience side effects on other ARVs switch back to d4T not realizing the long-term side effects may be more severe,” said Lu.
Some of the common side effects of d4T include lipodystrophy (when fat is re-distributed on a person’s body), peripheral neuropathy, and lactic acidosis, as well as damage to the liver and pancreas.
Since the beginning of 2013, ITPC-China has sent out leaflets and T-shirts among community-based organizations to raise awareness around d4T and advocate access to comprehensive and safe treatments, especially among the poor. ITPC-China has also tapped into Weibo, a social networking space, and other platforms to spread information about the negative consequences of d4T use and promote an alternative.
ITPC-China is also supporting a lawsuit in Shangdong Province, where a female patient was put on d4t despite the existence of guidelines that the ARV should no longer be used. As a result, the woman is suffering from d4t’s side effects. ITPC-China helped the woman identify a lawyer and provided funding for the lawsuit.
In the long-term, ITPC-China will advocate for more ARVs to become readily available in China, as having several, inexpensive options will be the only way to ensure more PLHIV have optimal treatment regimens.
For more information about ITPC-China’s campaign for the phase out of d4T, please email: luhonwi@gmail.com
This blog post originally appeared on the HIV Advocates website.