Tapiwa Magure, the NAC chief executive said the drugs would be dispensed to thousands of patients who need the life-prolonging treatment. The drugs were imported from India.
“We recently acquired Tenofovir worth US$4 million which is equivalent to 500 000 units and the drugs are already in the country at Natpharm,” he said in an interview.
He said the stocks would last for at least a year but there were plans to import more drugs.
Last year the WHO issued new guidelines recommending the substitution of Stavudine with Tenofovir, which experts say has fewer side effects. Some of the side effects associated with Stavudine include unequal distribution of fats in the body and hurting of legs.
But Owen Mugurungi, the director of the HIV and Tuberculosis unit in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare said there was no need for patients still taking Stavudine to panic since it takes about five years before one develops those side effects.
“The treatment is still effective although one develops side effects at a later stage,” said Mugurungi.
“As soon as patients develop side effects they should see the health practitioners who will give them the medication, so that their line of medication will be changed to the latest one.”
Mugurungi said there were large stocks of Stavudine at government stores that could last up to 2013, which cannot be thrown away.
“Currently the new drug is being given to new patients on treatment,” he said.
Tenofovir has come as a relief to patients like Tendai Masuka (39) of Budiriro, who started taking Stavudine in 2003 but developed serious side effects.
She said her body lost its original shape and her feet are always aching.
“I have suffered a lot because of using Stavudine,” Masuka said.
“I used to have a well-built body before I started treatment but I am now shapeless.
“I hope my body will be back to normal and I also hope that the pain which I am experiencing will go away when I start taking the new drugs.”