Noting that an estimated $2 billion was spent on the U.S. presidential campaigns, Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and founding dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine, writes in the Huffington Post “Healthy Living” blog, “Many of us in the global health community can only look upon that $2 billion figure in awe because of the potential for those dollars to be repurposed to immediately and dramatically improve the lives of the poorest people who suffer from disease.” Hotez says neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) “are the most pervasive and common infections of the world’s poorest people” and “not only impair health but actually trap people in poverty.” He says the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases can provide pharmaceutical “rapid impact packages” that “can control or even eliminate many of these diseases as public health problems … for as little as 50 cents per person per year, making NTD treatments one of the world’s most cost-effective public health interventions.”
Access to Health Services
The Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria began as a pilot program in 2010 to “provide a ‘co-payment’ to the manufacturers of [artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs)], thereby allowing commercial wholesalers and private or government health services to purchase the drugs at a fraction of the already low negotiated price,” Kenneth Arrow, a Nobel laureate in economic sciences in 1972 and an emeritus professor of economics at Stanford University, writes in a New York Times opinion piece. The program subsidized ACTs — a newer, more effective malaria treatment — to “sell [them] as cheaply as [less-effective] chloroquine in Africa’s private pharmacies and shops, where half of all patients first seek treatment for malaria-like fevers,” he states. “Strikingly, it has worked,” Arrow writes, noting a recent independent review of the program published in the Lancet.
Objections From India Bar Experts Calling For Global Treaty Against Fake Drug Trade From WHO Meeting
“A group of experts calling for a global treaty to stop the lethal trade in fake medicines has been barred from attending a World Health Organization meeting, highlighting deep divisions that are blocking progress on the subject,” Reuters reports (Hirschler, 11/13). In an analysis published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on Tuesday, Amir Attaran of the University of Ottawa and colleagues from the World Federation of Public Health Associations, International Pharmaceutical Federation, and the International Council of Nurses “urge the World Health Organization to set up a framework akin to its one [on] tobacco control to safeguard the public,” BBC News writes. The experts “say while governments and drug companies alike deplore unsafe medicines, it is difficult to achieve agreement on action because discussions too often trespass into conflict-prone areas such as pharmaceutical pricing or intellectual property rights,” the news service writes, adding, “Although some countries prohibit fake medicines under national law, there is no global treaty which means organized criminals can continue to trade using haven countries where laws are lax or absent” (Roberts, 11/13).
Sometimes “[w]hen the international aid community descends on a vulnerable place … good intentions make a bad situation even worse,” a Boston Globe editorial states, adding that is “what happened two years ago, when United Nations peacekeepers arrived in Haiti in the wake of a devastating earthquake, bringing the deadly disease cholera with them.” According to a panel of U.N. experts, poor sanitation in the peacekeepers’ camp likely caused the outbreak, which has killed 7,000 people and sickened 500,000, the editorial notes. “So far, the United Nations has declined to apologize for its role, or even admit it — perhaps because it is facing a deluge of expensive legal claims brought by the Boston-based Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti on behalf of the victim’s families,” the editorial states, noting that after a year, the “U.N. says it is still studying the claims.”
In a post in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog, Victoria Fan and Heather Lanthorn from the CGD examine the controversy surrounding the Affordable Medicines Facility-malaria (AMFm), writing, “No doubt, the debate on the AMFm has devolved into bickering and accusations from many sides. But the overstated rhetoric obscures genuine differences of opinion on how best to move forward with an evidence-based decision-making process, and what counts as ‘evidence’ sufficient to approve, modify, or scrap the program.” They continue, “Evidence needs to be at the core of these discussions. Ultimately, all malaria advocates share the same goal: to reduce the burden of malaria and the burden it places on human and economic development” (11/8).
USAID Announces Awards To 7 Universities To Help Innovate, Design Low-Cost Solutions To Health, Poverty, Conflict
“In a further move to bolster the role of science and technology in foreign aid, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) [on Thursday] announced major awards at seven universities in the United States and abroad to support ‘development labs’ that will design innovative, low-cost approaches to improving health and reducing poverty and conflicts,” ScienceInsider reports. The new program, called the Higher Education Solutions Network, is set to provide up to $130 million over five years, with the universities expected to provide at least a 60 percent match, according to the news service, which notes, “Each of the seven institutions will receive grants of up to $5 million a year for projects aimed at developing useful technologies” (Stokstad, 11/8).
“As the northern Indian state of Rajasthan rolls out an ambitious universal health care plan, the discontent of the state’s doctors stands in stark contrast to the joys of the 68 million people who will benefit from the scheme,” Inter Press Service reports. “Just a little over a year ago, the state government began supplying free generic drugs to its massive population, effectively stripping doctors of the ability to prescribe more expensive branded medicine,” IPS writes. The news service notes, “Some 350 essential generic drugs are now being distributed free of cost,” and, “[a]ccording to news reports, over 200,000 people are currently taking advantage of the program.”
Medical Aid Group Reports Syrian Troops Seizing Foreign Aid; WFP Warns Of Increasing Food Needs Among Refugees
“A medical aid group said on Wednesday Syrian troops are seizing foreign aid and reselling it or channeling it towards government loyalists, putting millions of lives at risk,” Reuters reports (11/7). “Almost all international aid sent to the Syrian Arab Red Crescent is being confiscated by the regime and never reaches civilians in need, [Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organisations (UOSSM),] an umbrella relief group for the war-ravaged country, said,” Lebanon’s Daily Star reports. “However, the International Committee of the Red Cross and the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP), which both work closely with the Syrian Red Crescent, denied their aid was being seized,” the newspaper adds (Larson, 11/7).
Writing in USAID’s “IMPACTblog,” Dereje Bisrat, monitoring and evaluation adviser for the Supply Chain Management System (SCMS), discusses the PEPFAR-funded program, which is administered by USAID and “works with Ethiopia’s Pharmaceutical Fund and Supply Agency (PFSA), nine regional health bureaus, and more than 1,717 health facilities to improve access to HIV/AIDS treatment” in the country. She tells the story of Neima Mohammed, an Ethiopian refugee who, after living in Djibouti for 10 years, returned to her home country to seek treatment through the program, writing, “This story might have ended with Neima’s fateful decline in health. Fortunately, thanks to friends back home, Neima learned Ethiopia was embarking on efforts to provide free antiretroviral treatment to thousands of people living with the disease” (11/6).
“An epidemic of dengue fever in India is fostering a growing sense of alarm even as government officials here have publicly refused to acknowledge the scope of a problem that experts say is threatening hundreds of millions of people, not just in India but around the world,” the New York Times reports. Dengue is endemic in half of the world’s countries and continuing to spread, experts say, according to the newspaper. In India’s capital, New Delhi, “where areas of standing water contribute to the epidemic’s growth, hospitals are overrun and feverish patients are sharing beds and languishing in hallways,” the newspaper writes. With officials citing 30,002 cases of dengue in India through October, “a 59 percent jump from the 18,860 recorded for all of 2011,” several experts say the true number of infections in the country is in the tens of millions, the New York Times notes.