By Oscar Nkala

The Botswana Ministry of Health and Wellness has warned the public of ‘potential safety issues’ arising from the use of anti-retroviral drug Dolutegravir (DTG) among pregnant women.

Image/Alvaro1984 18
Image/Alvaro1984 18

In a statement, the government said a new study suggests the drug can affect neural tube development during the early stages of conception. Neural tube development is the process involving the development of the foetal spinal cord, the brain and bones, which takes place within 28 days of conception.

To date, 4 cases of neural tube defects have been identified among the 426 women involved in an ongoing study by the Botswana Harvard Partnership. The women under study were taking DTG before they fell pregnant.  

Introduced in 2016, Dolutegravir is one of the main line antiretroviral drugs administered to HIV patients in Botswana. The notice advised pregnant women to use DTG with caution and seek regular advice from their clinicians.

Further, the government said all women who use DTG and are planning to get pregnant should consult their clinicians for appropriate advice on how to minimise potential risks.

Women who are pregnant or have already conceived while using DTG are also advised to consult their clinics. No cases of neural tube defects have been reported as yet among the 2 500 study women who began taking DTG after conception.  

Ministry of Health and Wellness public relations officer Doreen Motshegwa said health experts were still working on the safety issues related to uptake of DTG. Presently, the findings were circumstantial and inconclusive due to limited data availability.