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article imageWorld's supply of snakebite anti-venom will run out in 2016

By Karen Graham     Sep 7, 2015 in Health
London - In a statement issued Monday, the medical charity group, Doctors Without Borders warned that the world's remaining stockpiles of Fav-Afrique anti-venom, produced by Sanofi Pasteur will expire in June 2016.
The French company, Sanofi Pasteur, stopped producing the anti-venom last year, according to CTV News, switching to producing rabies treatment. Doctors Without Borders, known by its French acronym MSF, is warning that tens of thousands of people, particularly in developing countries, will be put at risk.
MSF's snake-bite advisor, Dr. Gabriel Alcoba, says "We are now facing a real crisis." He also says there won't be an alternative available to replace the Sanofi Pasteur treatment for at least two years.
CBS News is reporting that Alain Bernal, a spokesperson for Sanofi Pasteur, said the company was driven out of the market by competitors making cheaper products. The company announced they would stop making the treatment in 2010.
"It's very strange that (health officials) are only realizing this problem five years later," said Bernal, adding that the company has offered to make the anti-venom technology available to others, however, "nothing has materialized yet."
Other anti-venoms available, but not proven to be effective
There are other anti-venoms available for use, but their safety and effectiveness have not been established. To date, Fav-Afrique has proven to be the only anti-venom effective against snake bites from a range of snakes found across Sub-Saharan Africa.
In this region of the world, 30,000 people die of snake bites each year, and another 8,000 or more lose a limb after being bitten by a snake. Worldwide, close to 5 million people are bitten by snakes every year, with about 100,000 lives being lost. An additional 300,000 or more end up amputees or with other disabilities.
According to CTV News, the price of a vial of anti-venom is around $250 to $500, however, in poor countries, it is more often bought and supplied by donors or charities. Before a planned meeting this week in Switzerland, the MSF called on international health agencies to make sure anti-venom treatment was available to all who needed it, pointing out the World Health organization should play a "leading role."
WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl responded, saying a staffer was working on the problem, but there didn't seem to be anyone interested in being a donor. He cited doctors not wanting to use anti-venoms because they were made for the wrong snakes, as being part of the problem.
About Sanofi Pasteur
Sanofi Pasteur is a global company headquartered in Lyon, France. They have 14 production and/or R and D sites around the world, employing more than 13,000 people.
The company produces more than one billion doses of vaccines every year, immunizing over 500 million people annually. Their vaccines protect against 20 infectious diseases, including smallpox (the vaccine is still produced as a measure to respond to the threat of bioterrorism), according to the company's website.
More about snakebite antivenom, Doctors without borders, Sanofi Pasteur, FavAfrique antivenom, cheaper products
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