Ghana will use hydroxyurea, a generic drug developed by Novartis, for the treatment of Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) following a five-year agreement signed in January this year.
The treatment, according to the Ghana Health Service, will soon be deployed to healthfacilities across the country to reduce the current of cost treating the genetic disease.
Ghana and Novartis, an international pharmaceutical company, signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January 2019 to improve the diagnosis and treatment of persons with the disease.
Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, said at a media encounter in Accra on Wednesday that the public-private partnership deal will significantly reduce the cost of treating the disease that claims the lives of many infants in Ghana.
SCD is a hereditary condition that causes consistent damage to red blood cells, blood vessels and organs.
It affects the shape of red blood cells and can make blood cells and Bessel sticker than usual.
It is estimated that about 15000 births in Ghana are affected by SCD every year.
The Korle- Bu Teaching Hospital, Ghana’s biggest referral hospital, diagnoses and treats about 1,000 patients with hydroxyurea every year.
The first consignment of 5, 600 doses of hydroxyurea have been brought into the country and would be distributed in all public health facilities across the country to be sold to patients at a reduced price.
Hydroxyurea is the main treatment for SCD patients with sickle cell diseases in developed countries.
Within the five-year that the agreement will be in force, SCD treatment with hydroxyurea is expected to improve and extend the lives of people with the disease through a comprehensive approach to screen, diagnose, treat and manage the disease, train and educate as well as elevate clinical research and scientific capabilities.
Dr Nsiah-Asare said stakeholders plan to collaborate on field testing and guidelines for management of sickle cell diseases, through the establishment of centres of excellence for SCD in the 16 regional capitals.
This, he said, would be followed by the expansion of newborn screening for SCD, which was presently done in some districts in Kumasi alone.
“The partners focused on four main areas, thus; treatment of the disease, which seeks to seek to make hydroxyurea available and accessible in Ghana, diagnosis, with aims to make at least one newborn screening site available in each region, research and advocacy,” he said.
Dr Nsiah-Asare said the Ghana Health Service will under the MOU, prioritise sickle cell disease as an unmet medical need in Ghana’s health agenda and facilitate the coordination amongst the various government entities.
He noted that the partners were working together for the inclusion of the hydroxyurea medicine and associated laboratory testing on the National Health Insurance Scheme
Mr Patrice Natchaba, Head of Global Health and Corporate Responsibilities at Novartis, explained that the partnership was to ensure that no child or family suffering from sickle cell disease was left behind.
He encouraged families to have their children tested for the sickle cell gene as an earlydiagnosis was the surest way to reduce the disease burden.
Hydroxyurea, according to him, makes the red blood cells healthier when taken on daily basis.
Mr Natchaba said Nortavis was committed to its part of the partnership and will by September this year, bring in another 40,000 doses of the medicine.