Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said Monday that existing stockpiles of one of the most effective antidotes for snakebites will run out next year and the medical charity is calling on the global health community, donors, governments and pharmaceutical companies to take action.
A statement released by MSF says stocks of Fav-Afrique, the antivenom used to treat bites from 10 different types of snake across Sub-Saharan Africa, will expire by June 2016 and there are no effective replacements
The drug’s manufacturers, Sanofi Pasteur, stopped producing Fav-Afrique in 2014, saying competitors had priced them out of the market.
“We are now facing a real crisis so why do government’s pharmaceutical companies and global health bodies turn away when we need them most?” said MSF medical adviser Dr. Gabriel Alcoba.
The charity said there are a few alternative antivenom products in Africa but their effectiveness and safety have not been properly established.
Each year, about 5 million people around the world are bitten by snakes and out of those 100,000 will die and several hundred thousand more will become permanently disabled or disfigured. In sub-Saharan Africa alone 30,000 people die from snakebites every year and 8,000 suffer amputations.
MSF said an effective replacement antivenom wouldn’t be available for at least another two years, thereby putting tens of thousands of lives at risk.
According to the BBC, Sanofi has offered to transfer the antivenom technology to other companies but spokesperson Alain Bernal said, “Nothing has materialized yet.”
The World Health Organization considers snakebites to be a neglected public-health issue and experts are meeting in Switzerland’s Basel on Tuesday to help find a solution.
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