COVID-19: What next as shots expire and become harder to get?

Millions of doses of the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine procured by the South African government have expired and the shot is largely unavailable to people in the country. Meanwhile, earlier this month, the World Health Organization declared an end to the COVID-19 ‘Public Health Emergency of International Concern’. Adele Baleta asks what all this means for COVID-19 in South Africa.

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Analysis: Why has the price of this cancer medicine risen and fallen by over a thousand percent since 2016?

Lenalidomide is an important medicine used for the treatment of multiple myeloma – a type of bone marrow cancer that is not curable and typically requires long-term, ongoing treatment. Over the last decade, the price of this drug has fluctuated dramatically in South Africa and patients and their doctors have gone to extreme lengths to access it. Catherine Tomlinson unpacks the remarkable recent history of lenalidomide.

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Analysis: How well did SAHPRA do in 2022?

The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority has often made the headlines in recent years – be it in relation to COVID-19 vaccines, access to ivermectin, the approval of an HIV prevention injection, or most recently the clearing of inherited backlogs. Catherine Tomlinson assesses the state of South Africa’s medicines regulator as 2022 draws to a close.

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Editorial: World AIDS Day 2022 – Choice, convenience, and respect should be the cornerstone of SA’s HIV response

In Spotlight’s analysis of South Africa’s HIV response in recent years, two issues have stood out consistently – still too many people living with HIV are not taking antiretroviral therapy and the rate of new HIV infections in South Africa is not coming down fast enough. Accordingly, argues Spotlight editor Marcus Low, we must accelerate the shift toward an HIV response where we make testing for HIV and taking antiretroviral treatment as convenient as possible.

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SA expected to begin piloting HIV prevention shot in early 2023

South Africa is expected to begin piloting the every-other-month HIV prevention shot early next year, according to the international medicine financing initiative Unitaid. New modelling shows that the injection could prevent as many as 52 000 new HIV infections in the next two decades. But to be cost-effective in South Africa, the research argues, the price of the injection must fall to levels drugmaker ViiV Healthcare says are unrealistic. Laura Lopez Gonzalez reports.

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In-depth: Codeine regulation – a tussle between pain relief and addiction

Whether a pharmacist suggests it for treating headaches or whether a doctor prescribes it for managing post-surgical pain, chances are good that at some point you’ve taken a pain pill containing the opioid codeine. But since codeine can be addictive and withdrawal symptoms severe, regulation of the drug in South Africa has turned into a headache. Elri Voigt takes an in-depth look at the complexities of codeine regulation.

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