Increasing global demand for Bristol-Myers Squibb's anti-HIV drugs Sustiva and Zerit could soon outpace production capabilities and result in shortages of the medications, particularly in developing countries, The Wall Street Journal reports. The spike in demand has three main causes, analysts say: large-scale purchases of the drugs through the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief; similar bulk buys by programs funded by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria; and the recent withdrawal of two generic versions of the drugs from the market after the World Health Organization rescinded its approval of the medications.
Officials at BMS and drugmaker Merck, which markets Sustiva in developing countries, acknowledge that there could be potential shortages in the near future and say the companies are committed to ensuring that HIV patients currently on antiretroviral therapy continue to get the medications. The Journal reports that HIV patients in developing countries who seek antiretroviral therapy might have to wait for access to Sustiva and Zerit or be forced to use other anti-HIV medications until the shortages end. Officials at BMS and Merck say the length of the expected shortages is unknown because of rising demand for the medications.