BRAC Increases Maternal, Neo-Natal Child Health Services

first_imgWhen parents have a child in Finland, they don’t have to worry about a huge medical bill. In Liberia, the story is quite different.BRAC-Liberia has scaled up on reproductive maternal and neonatal child health services in the country. It is a leading a non-profit development organization with a mission to fulfilling the potential of underprivileged people through the implementation of programs in health, agriculture, poultry and livestock, youth empowerment as well as microfinance.Accordingly, BRAC’s Reproductive Maternal, Neo Natal and Child Health (RMNCH) program is implemented by their staff, who work in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, along with community health promoters, whose works are aimed at improving health at the community level.BRAC has designed this program as a way forward in giving its own support to the government by helping people to recognize the importance of accessing health facilities, thereby reducing maternal and child mortalities in the country.At age 19, Deborah Dixon is one of the BRAC RMNCH project beneficiaries. Ms. Dixon is grateful to the Community Health Promoter for the continuous health awareness, which has so far encouraged her to always seek treatment at a health facility rather than staying home. “BRAC workers also talk to us on breastfeeding and taking our children for vaccination,” she said. She also talked about how BRAC health workers pass by after every two weeks to do follow up.Sonnie Scott, another beneficiary and a mother of three, who lives in West Point, told the Observer Health Desk that she didn’t know anything about the program until she came in contact with the health promoters. She had swollen feet as a result of pregnancy. The health promoters encouraged her to go to the nearby health facility, where she remained and delivered her baby recently. “After giving birth, they normally make sure everything is in place for the baby, including breastfeeding,” she said of BRAC’s health workers.Kumasa Mulbah, a health coordinator, mentioned that as these health promoters visit the people daily from house to house, they are able to interact with them, encouraging the patients to realize the need to come to the health facility.“Learning to recognize high risks in pregnancy,” Mulbah indicated, “is among a series of trainings conducted by BRAC in partnership with the Ministry of Health, where all of the community health promoters and trained traditional midwives (TTMs) are taught to encourage pregnant women go to health facilities as often as possible.“A lot of people in the communities believe in the health promoters and TTMs because they are living in the community with them and are always on hand to provide much needed health services and tips,” Mulbah stated. She further said some women, who were previously refusing to seek health care at the facility, now have a great deal of confidence in the TTMs and community health promoters.“We currently have booths at different weekly markets where we give services like female condoms, injectables and pills. As we go to the communities, we encourage them to go to the facilities and to take family planning seriously,” she added.According to BRAC, West Point and parts adjacent have approximately 4,000 households and 20 community health promoters. Under the RMNCH, BRAC Liberia encourages TTMs and the community health promoters to identify pregnant women and girls and refer them to the nearest health facility through their household visits to community dwellers.Mr. Mohammed Abdus Salam, BRAC Liberia Country Representative, expressed his organization’s total commitment to reducing maternal and newborn deaths in the country. He stressed the need to work with other partners and key stakeholders to realize this goal.Meanwhile, scores of residents in the West Point area are calling on the Ministry of Health to prioritize the Reproductive Maternal, Neo Natal and Child Health services for women and adolescents. This, they believe, will help reduce risks associated with maternal and child health. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

This Company is Ready to Flood the U.S. with Cheap HIV Drugs

first_imgAmong the coconut plantations and beaches of South India, a factory the size of 35 football fields is preparing to churn out billions of generic pills for HIV patients and flood the U.S. market with the low-cost copycat medicines.U.S. patents on key components for some important HIV therapies are poised to expire starting in December and Laurus Labs – the Hyderabad, India-based company which owns the facility — is gearing up to cash in.Laurus is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of ingredients used in anti-retrovirals, thanks to novel chemistry that delivers cheaper production costs than anyone else. Now, its chief executive officer, Satyanarayana Chava, wants to use the same strategy selling his own finished drugs in the U.S. and Europe. He predicts some generics that Laurus produces will eventually sell for 90 percent less than branded HIV drugs in the U.S., slashing expenditures for a disease that’s among the costliest for many insurers.“The savings for U.S. payers will be so huge when these generic combination drugs are available in the U.S.,” he said in an interview at the factory outside the Southern Indian city of Visakhapatnam. Payers will save “billions of dollars,” he said.The patent expiries are starting this month when Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.’s Sustiva loses protection. Gilead Sciences’s Viread follows next month. Both companies didn’t respond to requests for comment.For generic manufacturers like Laurus, the U.S. market is alluring. With 1.1 million people infected with HIV in the U.S., and many of them living longer thanks to treatment, HIV drugs have become an $18.8 billion business for the pharmaceutical industry there, according to data provider IQVIA.Part of that spending is due to the high cost of the medicines. For instance, a combination of Viread, Sustiva and a third drug sold in pill form under the brand name of Atripla has an average wholesale price of almost $37,000 per person annually, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.But in the developing world the same combination can cost as little as $100 per person annually, after years of brutal competition between generic manufacturers drove prices down, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres. Though Laurus doesn’t yet make the actual pills those patients take, it’s become a dominant supplier of the key ingredients that make them work.The best way to fight HIV is with a combination of different drugs, and because Viread and Sustiva form key parts of some of the most effective combinations, the inclusion of generic versions of these chemicals could bring down the cost of the whole treatment. One analysis cited by the Department of Health found that replacing a three-medicine, branded combination with multiple pills, including a generic version of Sustiva, could save the U.S. $900 million its first year.Containers move along a conveyor on the packaging line for metformin pills at a Laurus Labs pharmaceutical plant in Visakhapatnam, India. Photo: Sara Hylton/BloombergIn the U.S., Laurus will be going up against much larger companies like Teva Pharmaceutical Industries — the world’s biggest generic drug company — which will beat it to market on generic Viread and so be the first to slash prices and lock down customers. Other generic companies, both from India and elsewhere, many of whom are customers of Laurus, are expected to enter the market too.Meanwhile, the companies that hold the original patents, like Foster City, California-based Gilead, have also been successful at switching patients to their newer therapies to limit the impact of generic competition on the old ones, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Asthika Goonewardene. He doesn’t predict a big impact from generic competition to the $2.6 billion Gilead gets from HIV drugs.Cost savings that were an advantage in the developing world, may also prove less useful in a less price sensitive market like the U.S. Between government programs providing treatment for the uninsured, and drug company funded ones helping the insured with their co-pays, HIV patients in the U.S. are often sheltered from the full cost of their medicines.So patients themselves may have little incentive to switch to cheaper alternatives, said Tim Horn, the New York-based deputy executive director of Treatment Action Group, an AIDS policy think tank. Newer drugs offer medical advantages to the ones going off patent, including fewer side effects, and the switch from one daily brand name pill to a mix of two or three may feel like a step back for many, he said.Still, Horn says private and public insurers, who pay the greater part of the full sticker price and then spread those costs through the system in the form of higher premiums and health-care costs, are likely to push for generics.For his part, Chava maintains he will eventually be able to undercut bigger rivals like Teva on price, and the magnitude of savings offered to insurers from generics will prove irresistible — particularly as more components of the older combinations go off patent in the next three years.“We believe we’ll be able to bring cost effective generic alternatives to the U.S. market,” he said. “We have the scale.”That willingness to compete on cost has made Laurus a bright spot in India’s pharmaceutical industry in a year when the U.S. generics market has been rocked by a protracted price war. Laurus’s stock has risen about 22 percent since its public market debut in 2016. Analysts are forecasting that its revenue will rise to about $339 million in the current fiscal year from $279 million in the previous year.Laurus controls about 66 percent of the global market for efavirenz, the chemical name for Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Sustiva, and 33 percent for tenofovir, the chemical name for Gilead’s Viread, according to a report earlier this year by investment bank Jefferies Group.A compact man of 54 with a trim mustache and rimless glasses, CEO Chava laughs enthusiastically as he recounts the scientific discoveries that helped give Laurus its edge. A chemist by training, he left his job as a C-suite executive at another Indian pharma company to found Laurus in 2005. He quickly saw an opportunity to improve the production process for efavirenz, which Indian generic firms were already producing in bulk for the developing world.The key ingredient of efavirenz was a compound called diethylzinc, which had to be imported from Europe, and has a propensity for bursting into flames upon contact with water, or even humid air. So Chava and his team eventually found an alternative in the combination of two chemicals easily had nearby.Where diethylzinc cost $80 per kilo — plus all the precautions needed to keep it from exploding — the two replacement chemicals together cost $5 per kilo. A similar innovation reducing the production cost of tenofovir by 75 percent followed, he said.For now, Chava’s new factory is only producing test batches as it seeks to win regulatory approval to enter the U.S. It is meant to eventually produce as many as 5 billion tablets annually. On Nov. 30, the company said it had received tentative approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to sell tenofovir.He expects his company could be in the market with its version of tenofovir in three months or so, in partnership with another Indian company with a U.S. distribution network. While that timeline could mean being beaten to market by some of his competitors, he says he’s not worried.“We don’t mind not being the first one,” Chava says. “But we want to be the last one standing.”© 2017 Bloomberg Related Itemslast_img read more