Child-friendly HIV drug – Lopinavir syrup – ran out of supply after drug manufacturer Cipla stopped making it because of non-payment of dues from the Health Ministry. Cipla is a key manufacturer of HIV drugs in the Indian market and is the sole manufacturer of the drug.

Feeling helpless after the withdrawal of the drug, 637 children living with HIV (CLHIV) wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention in the matter. The letter written to the PM on March 4, was signed by children ranging from age 3 to 19. The letter states that Cipla has in various forums cited delay in payments by the national programme for the HIV medicines for several years and even non-payment of its dues in many cases.

The letter also said that since profits on child doses of HIV medicines are small, delayed payments are having a chilling effect on the ability of the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) to convince the company to participate in the bids it invited annually.

Cipla had stopped taking part in government tenders after the ministry failed to pay the company for consignments sent in 2014.

While the Health Ministry has asked State AIDS Control Societies to purchase the drug from local markets, but since the syrup has gone out of production, it is not even available in retail markets. Though Cipla has not yet commented on the issue, certain emails show that the company had asked for guarantees of payment from patients with HIV.