News and Information on Health and Access to Quality Medicines

Quality Medicines for All in Africa - AEFJN Factsheet

A presentation easy to read on the Control of Small Arms in Africa, challenges encountered, the position of AEFJN, recomendations of the 2nd Synod for Africa and proposals for a commitment to a better control of the proliferation of small arms.

1505 Controversy over the 2014 mass tetanus vaccination campaign in Kenya.

In November 2014, a group of Christian doctors began to suspect that the anti-tetanus vaccination strategy in Kenya was actually a campaign to sterilise women. Of 9 samples of the vaccine tested in Kenya, 3 appeared to be contaminated by the hormone Beta HCG. In January 2015, as their warning was not being taken into account, the bishops of Kenya took action and the cardinal published this evidence and demanded that in future vaccines should be tested before a campaign is started.

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The Least Developed countries exempted
from granting patents ?

To respect the special needs and requirements of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), when the TRIPS Agreement of the World Trade Organization (WTO) came into force in 2003, the LDCs were allowed a 10 year exemption on their obligation to grant intellectual property rights, e.g. patents on medicines. As the exemption ends July 2013, Haiti in the name of the LDCs has asked to prolong the period of the exemption till the country ceases to be an LDC. This may impact the access to generic medicines for LDCs.



India prepares to supply free generic medicines

 Something is moving in India regarding access to medicines and Universal Health Care. In 2011 the state of Rajasthan began supplying free generic drugs to its 68 million people to end the price manipulation of doctors, private pharmacies and manufacturers. This program means to be a pilot for a similar scheme throughout India. What is happening in India can be an incentive for similar projects in other countries. 



Access to Medicine Index shows
more investment for the poor

 The 2012 Access to Medicine Index was published on November 2012 ranks the world’s 20 largest companies according to their efforts to improve access to medicine in developing countries, highlighting policy and practice that either facilitate or hinder access. One of the key findings is that many companies have increased investment in relevant research and development, and some now devote as much as 20% of their pipeline to developing new products and adapting existing ones to address the needs of the poor.



Critical barriers to the acceptance of quality antimalarial medicines for children

©Barbara SiggeMSF
©Barbara SiggeMSF

The Medicines for Malaria Venture (MMV), has released a new independent study in six francophone countries in Central and West Africa. The study focuses on assessing critical barriers to the acceptance and uptake of quality antimalarial medicines for children. Among key findings are: Drug supply financing and adequate supply chain monitoring represent a significant barrier; Lack of demand by health-care professionals – and willingness to change prescribing patterns – remains a barrier to acceptance. 



World Malaria Report 2012

The World Malaria Report 2012, published by the WHO in December 2012, highlights the progress made towards the global malaria targets set for 2015 and describes current challenges for global malaria control and elimination. The report signals a slowdown in the fight against malaria. After a rapid expansion between 2004 and 2009, global funding for malaria prevention and control levelled off between 2010 and 2012, and progress in the delivery of some life-saving commodities has slowed. 

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A review of the Work of World Health Organization
in the African Region

A report on the work of the World Health Organization (WHO) in the African Region entitled “The Work of WHO in the African Region” highlights the significant achievements made by the Organization during the biennium 2010-2011, and describes the challenges faced as it works with countries to improve the health of Africans. This work was carried out at a time when many African countries face a heavy burden of both communicable (infectious) and non-communicable diseases, with high numbers of maternal and infant deaths. 



ASMQ, a safe, rapid and reliably effective
treatment for malaria

Cipla, one of the world’s leading generic pharmaceutical companies in collaboration with Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi) have launched ASMQ, a Fixed-Dose combination of ‘Artesunate (AS)1 + Mefloquine (MQ)2’ for the treatment of resistant uncomplicated malaria that is proven to be a safe, rapid and reliably effective treatment recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). The new combination simplifies the patient’s treatment with a single dose of 1 or 2 tablets for 3 days, ensuring that the drugs are taken together and in correct proportions.


Zinc improves infant infectious treatment

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommended zinc and oral rehydration salts (ORS) to treat diarrhoea, a symptom of infections and a leading child killer, in 2004. Many low and middle-income countries have since changed their diarrhoea treatment policies to include zinc. Yet only a “very small proportion” of children who need zinc have access to it. Today a clinical study conducted in India, show that hundreds of seriously ill infants who received zinc - an essential micronutrient for the immune system and human growth - as well as antibiotics, responded better and more quickly to treatment than those who did not. This finding is the first proof that zinc supplements may boost infant survival from any infection.


 The tough battle against neglected diseases

 In developing countries, 1.4 billion people are affected by tropical "neglected" diseases. Due to lack of profitable business opportunities in the affected regions, pharmaceutical companies have always been reluctant to address the development of treatments for those neglected sickness. The resolution adopted by the WHO at its 2012 Intergovernmental Annual Meeting triggers a process that could lead to a framework agreement designed to encourage medical research on diseases affecting mainly developing countries. The current model of funding and prioritization of R & D (research and development) has many defects. The challenge is to separate the profits from the medical discoveries so that patients who cannot afford medical innovations can still benefit from it.


Sub-Saharan Africa's maternal death rate down
41 per cent

 The maternal death rate in sub-Saharan Africa has dropped by 41 per cent in 20 years. The 1990 rate of 850 deaths per 100,000 live births declined to a regional average of 500 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2010. The new figures for 2010 have been released in the report “Trends in maternal mortality: 1990 to 2010” by WHO, UNICEF, UNFPA and The World Bank. The maternal mortality rate (MMR) is considered to be high if it is over 300 deaths per 100,000 live births, and extremely high if above 1000 deaths per 100,000 live births. (eng)



Public Health at the Crossroads

Since the dawn of civilization, humankind made remarkable progress in advancing public health and improving people’s health, but today we are facing emerging health problems. During the last 100 years, scientific technological breakthroughs in health have brought accelerated progress in control of communicable diseases; but, the fundamental success factors lied on social and economic development that improved environment, housing, food, nutrition, education, water supply, hygiene and sanitation; and other key health determinants. Public Health as a discipline is at the crossroads.  There are major changes due in part to globalization, political and economic reforms, technology, and social and epidemiological changes in the way we manage health systems.  All relevant stakeholders should be prepared to address a broad and ever-increasing public health agenda, with new problems being assigned over time.


Universal Health Coverage

The tremendous escalation between 1990 and 2008 in international support for global health programs spawned a massive increase in medical and public health services throughout poor countries. The largely infectious diseases–focused global health initiatives and rising demand for chronic disease have placed a tremendous burden on health systems all over the world. The surge in funding and interest, largely propelled by the expanding HIV pandemic, led to rapid proliferation of medical and public health programs, fragmentation and competition among them, and disorder. This had heavy consequences in sub-Saharan Africa and has contributed to the weakening of national health systems.



AIDs drug production plant in South Africa could be a breakthrough

Currently South Africa imports all the ingredients used to manufacture anti-retroviral medicines (ARVs), mostly from India. These imports make up a large share of the country’s US$3.2 billion annual outlay on medicines. But a venture to establish the first pharmaceutical plant to manufacture Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs) needed to make ARVs, could be a huge cost-saving measure. This joint venture between the government and leading biochemicals company, Lonza, is expected to significantly cut South Africa’s dependence on imported drugs used to treat HIV and Aids.

Fake malaria drugs could 'put millions at risk'

Fake and poor quality anti-malarial drugs are threatening efforts to control the disease in Africa and could put millions of lives at risk. The fake medicines could harm patients and promote drug resistance among malaria parasites. Malaria is believed to kill about 800,000 people a year. The researchers, examined fake and substandard anti-malarial drugs that were found on sale in 11 African countries between 2002 and 2010. They discovered that some counterfeits contained a mixture of the wrong pharmaceutical ingredients which would initially alleviate the symptoms of malaria but would not cure it.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) approves medicines for outside the EU

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) in cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO), prequalification project, may give a scientific opinion, which is equivalent to approval of medicines for use outside Europe to prevent or treat diseases of major public health interest. This includes vaccines used in the WHO Expanded Programme on Immunisation or for protection against a public health priority disease, as well as medicines for WHO target diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, or tuberculosis.

EU drive to protect drug firms puts fight against Aids
at risk

The cheap supply of antiretroviral drugs to people with Aids could be choked by an "intellectual property" deal, which the European Union is negociating with India. More than 80 per cent of patients in developing countries use generic medicines made in India. But those drugs are under threat from this Trade agreement. The EU has long been seizing supplies of the drugs as they transit through Europe on their way from India to Africa. Now, under this new EU-India Free Trade Agreement, it wants the country nicknamed "the pharmacy of the developing world" to impose lengthy delays in the production of affordable generic versions of vital medicines.


The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA)
a flawed process

The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) proposes aggressive intellectual property enforcement that would hinder generic competition, leaving healthcare systems and consumers to pay higher prices for medicines. Generic competition is key for bringing down prices and ensuring access to affordable medicines, all around the world and in the poorest settings. In the case of some essential medicines, even temporary delays in the trade in generics can be potentially life-threatening. Similar provisions as those in ACTA have already stopped generic medicines in transit through Europe, delaying their speedy delivery to developing countries. ACTA was established over the last five years in a secret, undemocratic process. ACTA predominantly caters to private rights holders (big companies). The European Union’s first and foremost concern should be its citizens, and the citizens of the world, not its corporations. A free and unburdened trade in legitimate generics is crucially important for access to safe, affordable and quality assured medicines.

Worldwide demonstrations say “NO to ACTA”

On the 10 February 2012 in over 200 cities all over the world people took to the streets, to say ‘NO’ to ACTA,  speaking out against the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) – an international agreement that threatens our civil liberties and access to medicines.


Financial Crisis May Kill in Congo as
Global Health Aid Stalls

Europe’s debt crisis has brought down governments, roiled markets and triggered austerity measures affecting millions. Governments struggling to curb deficits from Spain to the U.S. have cut or slowed their contributions to the World Health Organization and disease-fighting funds that prop up health services in the world’s poorest countries. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 28,000 people with HIV who were meant to start life-saving treatment by 2014 may not because of shortfalls in the foreign aid that pays for the nation’s AIDS drugs. Some of those people will get sick and die.



Ten Stories that Mattered in Access to medicines in 2011

2011 marks the ten-year anniversary of two events that have helped shape people’s ability in developing countries to access quality, affordable medical care.
First, the signing of the Doha Declaration, in which governments affirmed the need to prioritize health over trade: access to affordable medicines over intellectual property rights. But a decade later, the struggle to access medicines in developing countries continues. Second, the ten-year anniversary of the decision to create a “war chest” to fight the developing world’s biggest killer diseases: HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. Access Campaign was created just over ten years ago in order to try, with others, to give patients the best care we can. Ten years on, with real achievements under our belt, the battle is not yet won—there is still so much to fight for.


Ecumenical Pharmaceutical Network Forum 2012 on access to quality medicines


The next EPN Forum will take place from 21st to 23rd March 2012, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The theme of discussions will be ‘Access to quality medicines: priority needs, priority actions for today and tomorrow’. All EPN members, partners and stakeholders are invited.Participation fee is 200USD for EPN members (including accommodation and conference package) and 150 USD for non-members (covering only conference package). For EPN members residing in Addis, participation fee is only 50 USD.


The best anti-malaria drug made available more economically and for all patients


The most effective anti-malaria drug can now be produced inexpensively and in large quantities. This means that it will be possible to provide medication for the 225 million malaria patients in developing countries at an affordable price. Researchers have developed a very simple process for the synthesis of artemisinin, the active ingredient that pharmaceutical companies could only obtain from plants up to now.


Should Patents on Pharmaceuticals Be Extended to Encourage Innovation?

Pharmaceuticals have improved and extended the lives of millions of people. But the many advances over the past couple of decades haven't come without controversy, much of it centering on the massive profits the industry makes on blockbuster drugs. The drug makers say those profits fund the research that produces breakthrough treatments.  Critics question that assumption. There's no proof, they say, of a link between patent life and innovation. In their view, drug companies focus on developing the most marketable drugs instead of the most urgently needed medications. So extending patents would serve mainly to boost drug companies' profits, not to encourage the innovation needed to address the world's unmet medical needs.


Local production of ARVs in Kenya

A Kenyan pharmaceutical company has been given the green light by the World Health Organization (WHO) to start producing antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, which could result in significant savings for the government's growing treatment programme. Earlier in November, WHO granted prequalification certification to the company, allowing it to manufacture the combination ARV drug, Lamizido. Certification means international organizations providing ARVs can also procure the medication from this company, and that use of the drug in the state's treatment programme is approved. Lamizido, one of 255 drugs certified by WHO, is a combination of Zidovudine and Lamivudine, and will be produced in 150 and 300 gram doses. The manufacturer Universal Corporation estimates that the cost of the drug will be cheaper by at least 30 percent than what the government buys currently from foreign manufacturers.


Resistance rate higher for regimens with
efavirenz and AZT


HIV treatment regimens that include both efavirenz and AZT have the highest rates of resistance, according to Swiss research published in the online edition of Clinical Infectious Diseases. The findings underline the greater durability of antiretroviral drug combinations that include tenofovir rather than one of the older nucleoside analogues like AZT, and are of particular relevance to low and middle-income countries considering the trade-offs between cost and durability of various first-line antiretroviral regimens. During six years of follow-up, 16% of patients treated with a combination including efavirenz (Sustiva) and AZT (zidovudine, Retrovir), developed resistance compared to 5% to 9% of patients taking alternative combinations. Two-thirds of all cases of resistance emerged when a patient had a viral load between 50 and 500 copies/ml.


Free online database on health systems

Health Systems Evidence is the world's most comprehensive, free access point for evidence to support policymakers, stakeholders and researchers interested in how to strengthen or reform health systems or in how to get cost-effective programmes, services and drugs to those who need them. This continuously updated repository of syntheses of research has expanded dramatically since its launch less than two years ago. The redeveloped website offers new search functionalities, and is available in seven languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. Other enhancements include a filter that allows users to identify evidence targeting low- and middle-income countries, and a customizable evidence service that will provide monthly e-mail alerts identifying new documents available in the database specific to someone’s individual interests. Registration to the database is free. 


Scholarships to the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Belgium

L’Institut de Médecine Tropical se trouve à Anvers, Belgique et est considéré parmi les meilleurs instituts dans le monde pour la formation, la recherche et l‟asistance dans la médecine tropicale et les soins de santé dans les pays en voie de développement. L‟institute offre un large nombre de bourses pour étudiants de différents programmes d‟étude. Parmi les bourses (partielles ou complètes) sont Master en Santé Publique - Politiques et Management des Systèmes de Santé, Master en Santé Publique - Contrôle des Maladies, Formation Courte en Politiques de Santé, Formation Courte en Management Stratégique de Systèmes de Santé.


KENYA- New guidelines follow recall of faulty HIV test

En novembre, l’OMS a retiré, avec effet immédiat, le kit de dépistage rapide de VIH Standard Diagnostics Bioline® HIV 1/2 3.0 de sa liste de tests rapides homologués. L’alerte a été lancée après l’échec de Bioline aux tests d’assurance qualité. Au Kenya on estime qu’un million de kits étaient en circulation au moment du retrait, soit environ un dixième de tous les kits VIH disponibles dans le pays. Sauf dans le cas des tests sur les bébés, les résultats des tests VIH ont toujours été instantanés et c’est ce qu’il y avait de bien. S’il faut attendre le résultat en cas d’incertitude, cela pourrait être extrêmement angoissant pour certains. On peut craindre également l’impact qu’aura le retrait sur la confiance du public dans le dépistage du VIH.