Snake bites kill tens of thousands of people a year in many parts of the world. However, the international health community is not echoing the problem and is not guaranteeing the availability of the treatment and the necessary doses of the antidote.
Every year around the world, 5 million people are bitten by snakes. Of this figure, 100,000 die and 400,00 are disabled or with some permanent sequel. The most affected sector is Africa, since only there 30,000 people die a year, of which 8,000 suffer some type of amputation due to poison. Many of these victims are children.
Unfortunately, and for a number of reasons, the outlook is expected to be darker for June 2016, since the most effective antidote for bites is about to run out. French pharmaceutical company Sanofi-Pasteur is the only company that makes the drug Fav-Afrique. This is the only safe and effective antidote for poisoning treatment. The problem was that in 2014 the company made the decision to stop manufacturing the antidote since doing so requires a fairly large technological expense and the company preferred to focus its technology on manufacturing a rabies treatment.
The litter of antidotes already manufactured has an expiration date in June 2016, so it is estimated that, if by then no one takes the manufacturing concession, there will be no more antidotes available. The pharmaceutical company is negotiating with another company to start manufacturing Fav-Afrique. However, it is estimated that those negotiations will not end until the end of 2016, leaving the community without the antidote for at least two years. Although some alternative anti-venom products exist in Africa, their efficacy and safety are unproven.
Julien Poetet, Neglected Diseases Advisor at Doctors Without Borders, says: “Until there is an antidote that can take the place of Fav-Afrique, we hope that Sanofi can start to generate the base material needed to produce Fav-Afrique. , and later look for suitable opportunities within your production capacity to refine the counterpoison.”
The actors in the health field do not seem to care too much about this problem since they are not showing much interest in the subject. Dr. Gabriel Alcoba, medical adviser to Doctors Without Borders, wonders:
“We are facing a real crisis. How is it possible that governments, pharmaceutical companies and international health organizations slip away when we need them most?”, “Can you imagine the terrifying experience of being bitten by a snake, feeling the pain and the poison spreading through the body? knowing it’s something that could kill you, and knowing there’s no treatment available or you can’t afford to pay for it?”
Another problem that this problem entails is that snake bites affect more than anything people who live in rural areas. Due to the lack of medical centers in the area, it is very expensive for the victims to take care of the treatment. According to what is exposed by the world organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF), the treatment can cost between 250 and 500 dollars per patient. This figure is equivalent to four years of salary in the countries where bites occur the most. This results in many of those affected not receiving care. For this reason, it is estimated that the affected victims are many more than those described in the official figures. It is extremely important and very necessary that these costs are 100% subsidized, since it is the only alternative to save hundreds of lives.
Doctors Without Borders hopes that the World Health Organization will play a leading role in addressing this problem as a public health problem. However, this disease lacks a formal program and is considered a neglected disease. Both the international health community and donors, governments and pharmaceutical companies must assume the responsibility of recognizing this problem as a public health emergency, and jointly seek an alternative to end this problem.