AIDS drug delay condemned
SYDNEY — A community meeting of more than 100 people on January 17 unanimously condemned federal health minister Carmen Lawrence for "inexcusable delay" in approving funding for an effective AIDS treatment drug, Rifabutin.
Approval for the drug was obtained last June by the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee, but Health Department delays in approving funding for its use have prevented it becoming available. Rifabutin prevents and treats the debilitating opportunistic infection MAC, common among people with AIDS.
The meeting was called by the AIDS Council of NSW (ACON) and People Living With HIV/AIDS. It also criticised drug manufacturer Syntex for refusing to supply another drug, oral gancyclovir, under the Special Access Scheme to people going blind as a result of CMV retinitis, another common disease among people with AIDS.
The meeting resolved that a coalition of organisations would continue to fight for better access to funding for new drugs to treat people with HIV/AIDS. Their next meeting will be held on January 31 at ACON.