e-Pharmalink is an electronic newsletter of the Ecumenical Pharmaceutical Network (EPN), an independent, non-profit Christian organization, whose mission is to support churches and church health systems provide and promote just and compassionate quality pharmaceutical services through networking, access to medicines and treatment literacy programmes.
This newsletter aims at providing health professionals with current information that could support them in their efforts to provide effective and efficient services. It is a summary of news reported by a wide range of publications or organizations and includes web links to the original sources. Subscription to this newsletter is free and open to all interested parties.
This edition includes:
Essential medicines and access to medicines
AMR and antibiotics
TB, HIV and AIDS
Essential medicines and access to medicines
Access to Essential Medicines: Ten Stories That Mattered in 2010
Through its Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been closely following the developments in the world of access to medicines, vaccines and diagnostics. Among the positive stories of the past year are: new tools were developed for Meningitis A and for tuberculosis, promising research was published on severe malaria, an innovative mechanism was created to make lifesaving HIV medicines more affordable, and the quality of food aid is progressively improving. But it wasn’t all good news in 2010: donors are turning their back on AIDS and pursuing a number of policies that threaten access to generic medicines. At the same time, measles is making a comeback, and neglected tropical diseases continue to take a heavy toll.
Burkina Faso introduces new meningitis vaccine nationwide
The West African nation of Burkina Faso became the first country to begin a nationwide campaign to introduce a new meningitis vaccine that promises to rid the entire region of the primary cause of epidemic meningitis. The first vaccine designed specifically for Africa, MenAfriVac is expected to help health workers eliminate meningococcal epidemics in the 25 countries of the meningitis belt, stretching from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east. Priced at less than US$ 0.50 per dose, MenAfriVac is a highly affordable solution to one of the region’s biggest health problems. Using a unique public-private partnership model, the development of MenAfriVac cost only US$ 50 million - a fraction of the amount usually required to develop and bring a new vaccine to market.
AMR and antibiotics
Plasma can be used to treat infections
A team of researchers from the Gamaleya Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow may have found an alternative to antibiotics that is both effective and safe for treating multi-drug resistant infections. Plasma at low temperatures is capable of killing bacterial species in chronic wound infections and protective biofilms. According to the researchers, cold plasma has the ability to fight several bacterial species like Staphylococcus aureus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The research team plans to continue their research to better the technique and find useful medical applications for cold plasma.
TB, HIV and AIDS
Abacavir Sulfate paediatric tablets receive tentative FDA approval
Matrix Laboratories Limited has received tentative approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) under the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) for its New Drug Application (NDA) for Abacavir Sulfate tablets, 60 mg. The NDA is based on the reference listed drug Ziagen by ViiV Healthcare. This innovative paediatric dosage in tablet form was developed by Matrix for use in treating children with HIV/AIDS. This product will be eligible for purchase outside the US in certain developing countries. Abacavir Sulfate tablets are used in combination with other medications to control HIV infection and are included in the ARV class of drugs known as nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors. The tablet is a preferred form because it provides ease, accuracy and convenience of dosing over the currently available oral solutions.
Mobile phone short message service boosts ART adherence
A text message from a clinic each week resulted in better adherence and a higher level of viral load suppression among people with HIV after starting antiretroviral treatment in Kenya, a randomised controlled trial has shown. The results were published in the Online First section of The Lancet early November 2010. The trial was sponsored by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The intervention cost around 20 cents per patient each month, and would potentially allow one nurse to monitor adherence and other issues in 1000 patients each month, the researchers calculated.
New rapid test for TB provides diagnosis in 100 minutes
WHO endorsed a new and novel rapid test for tuberculosis (TB), especially relevant in countries most affected by the disease. The test could revolutionize TB care and control by providing an accurate diagnosis for many patients in about 100 minutes, compared to current tests that can take up to three months to have results. The rapid test is a fully automated NAAT (nucleic acid amplification test) and is effective in the early diagnosis of TB, as well as multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) and TB complicated by HIV infection, which are more difficult to diagnose. The machine which resembles a big computer is easy to transport and only needs electricity to function.
WHO launches new ICF/IPT guidelines
In December 2010, WHO launched its New guidelines on Intensified TB Case Finding and the provision of Isoniazid Preventive Therapy (henceforth the ICF/IPT guidelines). The guidelines state that screening for TB by using only a symptom-based algorithm is sufficient to start IPT for people living with HIV. They also state that there is no need for a chest x-ray and tuberculin skin tests (TST) shouldn’t be a requirement for putting someone on IPT. Other recommendations, such as screening the patient (including those on IPT) for TB at every clinic visit, and a recommendation to consider offering a longer course of IPT (36 months) in settings where the risk of TB transmission between people with HIV is particularly high, are also new.
Substandard anti-malarials recalled in Ghana
Substandard and counterfeit versions of thirteen key anti-malarial medicines were uncovered in multiple locations across Ghana by the Medicines Quality Monitoring surveillance programme in November 2010. Some of the drugs discovered contained no active pharmaceutical ingredient, while others failed to meet required quality standards. This causes great harm in two ways: the individual patients taking the drugs get no relief, and drug-resistant strains of malaria may grow stronger. The discovery of the counterfeits - in use at a government-run hospital and private clinic, and being distributed through many pharmacies - has resulted in a nationwide recall of all thirteen drugs, including publicizing the names of the outlets where they were found.
EPN grants for pharmacy training
EPN has recently announced the availability of grants to support staff working in the pharmacies of church hospitals to undertake 1 – 2 year courses leading to the award of a pharmacy qualification accepted in the applicant’s country. The grants are available from January 2011. Conditions apply.
New Called to Care book
The Strategies for Hope Trust published a new book (No. 8) in its Called to Care series, titled 'My life - starting now. Knowledge and skills for young adolescents'. This 80-page manual focuses on knowledge and lifeskills for young people aged 10 to 15. The co-authors of the book - Lucy Steinitz in Namibia and Eunice Kamaara in Kenya - have combined their vast experience of training young people in lifeskills and producing educational materials on HIV, gender, sex and sexual behaviour. Illustrations are by the Namibian artist, Marika Matengu, and the Zambian artist, Danny Chiyesu. The publication is available online. Hard copies can be ordered for £2.60 each (plus packing & postage) but are also available for free on certain conditions.
WHO publications on good governance for medicines
Two new documents were recently published by WHO, related to the Good Governance for Medicines (GGM) programme:
The 2010 Progress Report for the Good Governance for Medicines programme is available in English, French and Spanish.
A compilation of best practices from GGM countries, published as a background document to the WHO World Health Report 2010, titled "WHO Good Governance for Medicines programme: an innovative approach to prevent corruption in the pharmaceutical sector - Compilation of country case studies and best practices" is available in English.
African Index Medicus (AIM)
In order to give access to information published in or related to Africa and to encourage local publishing, the World Health Organization, in collaboration with the Association for Health Information and Libraries in Africa (AHILA), has produced an international index to African health literature and information sources. Printed knowledge generated in African countries is given global exposure in the African Index Medicus. It will promote African publishing by encouraging writers to publish in their country or regional journals, whereas now scientists and researchers in developing countries are competing for publication space in the few world-wide "prestigious" journals.
Ecumenical Pharmaceutical Network (EPN) is a Christian, not for profit, independent organization committed to the provision of quality pharmaceutical services as a means to achieving global goals and targets on health and access to medicines.
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