One of the most effective anti-venom drugs has stopped being produced and its current stocks will expire in June 2016, warns the medical charity “Doctors without Borders” .
According to representatives of the NGO, the snakebite medicine called Fav-Afrique used to be produced by Sanofi Pasteur, but the manufacturer has stopped these operations last year and has switched to producing rabies drugs instead. Fav-Afrique used to neutralize the effects of 10 different snakebites which can affect people in Sub-Saharan Africa, and its stocks are now running out.
A spokesperson of Sanofi Pasteur admitted that due to increased competition in the market from drug retailers offering cheaper products, the company was forced to close its antidote-making business, after having announced this move in 2010.
Despite efforts from Sanofi Pasteur to transfer their anti-snakebite technology to another company, no agreement has been signed so far and currently there is no comparable alternative for the drug.
Fav-Afrique was the only serum whose safety and effectiveness had been proven for treating a variety of cases in the African region, especially when the victims weren’t sure exactly what snake had attacked them. The crisis has been going on for the last half a decade, and it was only now that the issue became public knowledge.
The “Doctors without Borders” aid group, also known by as MSF (its French acronym), have recently raised awareness to the fact that the world is facing a real danger, because it is likely that no replacement for the treatment will be developed in the next couple of years.
Although it is speculated that Sanofi may be negotiating with another company to transfer its serum production there, such talks might finalize too late, near the end of 2016.
This could lead to the death of tens of thousands of people, especially in underdeveloped countries. To prevent putting so many lives at risk, MSF has urged the global health community, governments and pharmaceutical companies to step forward and work together in order to ensure that vital snakebite medicine is not depleted and that alternative antidotes can be created without delay.
According to the aid group, the World Health Organization should also play “a leading role” in combating the crisis, by acknowledging the severity of the situation and addressing it formally.
Every year, approximately 5 million people suffer snake bites, resulting in around 100,000 deaths and 400,000 amputations and other disfigurements. In the Sub-Saharan region, around 30,000 fatalities are reported, while 8,000 other victims undergo amputations.
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