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KENYA: Kisumu, Novartis partner to boost drugs accessibility

By Robert Ojwang’ with Kenya News Agency

Kisumu County has initiated talks with Novartis – the world’s leading pharmaceutical company to promote cooperation between the two entities in boosting pharmaceuticals production and access to drugs.

Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o said that the potential partnership would strengthen health care services in the Lake Region Economic Block, following a visit at his office by senior managers from Novartis International.

The Switzerland based firm has made remarkable milestones in the medical sector and was among the companies that successfully produced Covid-19 vaccines and generic drugs to treat sickle cell disease (SCD), due to its advanced pharmaceutical production infrastructure.

Nyong’o valued Novartis’s activities in the country and welcomed the group’s support in the sickle-cell anemia programme, as the County is currently constructing comprehensive cancer and hematological Center, at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital (JOOTRH).

Novartis specializes in cardio renal metabolic, pain, oncology and kidney transplant and ophthalmology pharmaceuticals globally.

In Kisumu, the firm intends to establish a pharmaceutical company, enhance medical research on SCD and oncology as well as strengthening community health systems in the area.

Leading the delegation in Kisumu was Dr. Lutz Hegemann, Novartis Foundation Group, Head of Corporation Affairs and Global Health, together with the firm’s Country President and Head of Novartis in Sub-Saharan Africa, Ms. Racey Muchilwa.

With the high prevalence of SCD in the lakeside region, the partnership plans to prioritize the provision of sickle cell and neuroscience drugs, as well as medicine intended for treating multiple sclerosis and epilepsy.

Kisumu records about 1,500 children born annually with sickle-cell anemia and out of every 10 births, three are carriers of the gene.

50 per cent of children born with this condition die before reaching five (5) years, translating to a 30 per cent mortality rate, compared to one per cent in developed countries.

“We have set up systems for children born with sickle-cell to benefit from basic pharmacological products, however, the way forward is gene therapy and other new innovation,” Dr. Hegemann said.

In a significant medical development, Novartis developed the Crizanlizumab drug to compound the treatment of sickle cell ailments, besides the use of hydroxycarbamide tablets and regular blood transfusions. Over 100 million people living with SCD globally.

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