HIV centre in TN gave ‘expired’ pills to 60 patients

THANJAVUR: An anti-retroviral therapy (ART) centre at the Thanjavur medical college has given expired drugs to at least 60 people living with HIV/AIDS. While experts say it isn’t dangerous to take such drugs after the expiry date, some HIV positive people have complained of itching, vomiting and giddiness.

From Times of India.

The ART centre has been treating about 1,200 people with HIV/ AIDS. The 60 patients who received the expired drugs are from Thanjavur, Tiruvarur and Nagapattinam. Raman (46), one of the HIV positive people, said he developed itching, vomiting and giddiness last week.

“I got the tablets from the ART centre on April 23 and started consuming it. When I went back to the centre on April 29, with complaints of vomiting and giddiness, the pharmacist told me that the expiry date on the tablet was March 2008. He collected the tablets and gave me fresh ones,” Raman told TOI.

Senthilvel (26), another HIV positive person from Thanjavur, had taken the tablets from April 18 to May 5 and suffered from itching and stomach pain. “I have been taking the tablets for the past three and half years. This is the first time I am having problems,” he said.

In fact, when he approached the ART centre on May 5, the tablets were just replaced. The condition of Subbammal (48) is worse. She has been suffering from severe joint pain and is unable to bend her fingers. She had taken the tablets from the old batch for more than 15 days.

“Even after they were given fresh tablets, the symptoms lasted, though with lesser intensity,” said Raman and Senthilvel. ART tablets, a composition of zidovudine, lamivudine and nevirapine, have to be taken once in 12 hours to inhibit the multiplication of HIV. ART drugs delay immune deterioration and improve quality of life.

A doctor at the ART centre said the expiry dates on the tablets was April 2008 and not March 2008. However, he admitted that the centre withdrew the tablets from just three persons in the first week of May.

“Even in those three cases, they were advised to take the tablets before April 30. But they missed the schedule and resumed taking them after the expiry date,” he said.

A specialist attending HIV/AIDS patients in Chennai said taking ART drugs even a couple of months after their expiry date is unlikely to cause side effects.

“Usually, the efficacy remains intact for two months after the expiry date. The side effects might not be because of the drug,” said a senior doctor.

The Tamil Nadu AIDS Control Society (Tansac) project director Supriya Sahu said it was, however, not an excuse to distribute drugs beyond the expiry day. “It’s a mistake. We are inquiring. The drugs have been called back,” said Sahu.

(Names of HIV Positive persons changed)

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