Doctors Without Borders, also known as MSF in France, says that by June 2016 the world will run out of one of the most efficient snakebite antidotes which will lead to numerous deaths especially in sub-Saharan Africa.
In a statement released on Monday, Doctors Without Borders says that Fav-Afrique, the anti-venom manufactured by Sanofi Pasteur will expire in June 2016 and that there will be no effective replacements for the next two years.
Fav-Afrique is an anti-venom capable of neutralising the venom of 10 species of snakes found in sub-Saharan Africa. Manufacturers at French pharmaceutical company Sanfori Pasteour, stopped releasing the product on the market in 2010. They are currently negotiating to hand over the technology to a different company, however Doctors Without Borders believe that negotiations will not be finalized before the anti-venom stocks expire.
A spokesperson at Sanfori Pasteour said that the company stopped producing the anti-venom due to the increasing number of companies making cheaper drug alternatives. In Ghana 2013, Fav-Afrique was replaced with Asna Antivenom C, a low-priced, less efficient drug produced in India.
“It’s very strange that the relevant stakeholders are only realizing this problem five years later,” commented Alain Bernal, a Sanofi Pasteur spokesman.
Each year, approximately 5 million people are bitten by venomous snakes, of which 100,000 will die, while other 400,000 will suffer from disability and disfiguration due to loss of limbs. These cases are encountered mostly in poor countries, where people do not have access to good medical care. In many cases they turn to traditional healers rather than a certified doctor, explains Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
In sub-Saharan Africa, regions such as South Sudan, Paoua and Agok up to 30,000 victims die each year from snakebites and a number of 8,000 suffer amputations. The anti-venom treatment costs $250 to $500, making it less accessible to people in poor countries. The drugs are normally offered by donors and other aid groups in order to help the victims.
The World Health Organization considers that snakebites should by no means be a neglected issue. Experts are gathering in Switzerland on Tuesday in order to come up with a solution.
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