Pregnant women and those in their reproductive years can now use an an antiretroviral drug dolutegravir, commonly known as DTG, as the World Health Organisation (WHO) certified the drug as safe for their use.
In a statement posted on its official website on Monday, the WHO said initial studies had flagged DTG as having a possible link with neural tube defects (birth defects of the brain and spinal cord that cause conditions such as spina bifida) in infants born to women using the drug at the time of conception.
But it announced that recent studies have shown that it is far more tolerable than the older drug efavirenz, which patients have reported causes depression and hallucinations in the first few months.
“DTG is a drug that is more effective, easier to take and has fewer side effects than alternative drugs that are currently used. DTG also has a high genetic barrier to developing drug resistance, which is important given the rising trend of resistance to efavirenz and nevirapine-based regimens,” states the WHO.
“DTG also has a high genetic barrier to developing drug resistance, which is important given the rising trend of resistance to EFV and nevirapine-based regimens.
“In 2019, 12 out of 18 countries surveyed by WHO reported pre-treatment drug resistance levels exceeding the recommended threshold of 10 per cent.
“All of above findings informed the decision to update the 2019 guidelines, and the newly updated recommendations aim to help more countries improve their HIV policies,” WHO said.
”For any medications, informed choice is important as every treatment decision needs to be based on an informed discussion with the health provider weighing the benefits and potential risks,” it said.