Stocks of HIV medication meant to address the current shortage of treatment available are due to arrive in the country by next week, a spokesperson for the Health Ministry has said.
The shipment which was expected to arrive on Wednesday from the UK has been delayed due to transportation issues created by Brexit and an emergency order has since been placed with a Portuguese firm to address the shortage.
The ministry said it was currently in short supply of Abacavir 300mg and Lamivudine 300mg, as well as Ritonavir 100mg tablets.
Last week, the shortage forced some HIV patients to rely on the kindness of others who could spare some of their own medicine.
The spokesperson said that the treatment was in the process of being phased out, with less production leading to less supply.
The changeover to new medication was further delayed due to COVID-19, which is also managed through the infectious diseases unit. The changeover in medication would require clinicians to manage and follow up on their patients switching to a new treatment regimen.
Chris Vincent Jung, president of HIV prevention NGO Checkpoint Malta, reiterated concerns that the shortage would cause patients to abruptly switch up their medication without an appropriate follow-up available.
“From a medical perspective, if your pills change and you are taking the same drug it is not an issue. The problem is if you’ve been switched to a different drug then you need a follow-up,” Jung said.
“We are concerned that there are not enough staff on hand to get the patients who have made the switch checked in a reasonable amount of time.
“There should have been a better plan for this, we cannot have things go back to the status quo, we need to keep up with new ways to treat HIV patients.”
The NGO said they have been approached by some 50 people who experienced difficulty in accessing their medication, however they estimate that more are impacted.
Jung also expressed concern that the roll-out of new medication had been delayed by six months, leaving patients in the lurch on how exactly they are expected to continue treatment.
“Not communicating clearly with people living with HIV on their life-saving medication brings unnecessary anxiety and highlights the level of mismanagement taking place,” he said.
In a statement, the Green Party said the lack of medication was “unacceptable”
"Despite the assurances by the Ministry for Health, lots of people, some of whom have contacted us, who rely on HIV medication for their quality of life and their health are finding themselves in an extraordinary situation of uncertainty", said APDP's secretary general Ralph Cassar.