Wednesday January 29, 2020

WHO Might Declare Congo’s Ebola Outbreak an International Health Emergency

Capobianco cited Congolese health ministry statistics announced on Thursday showing 40 new cases over two days this week

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ebola
FILE - Health workers carry a newly admitted confirmed Ebola patient into a treatment centre in Butembo in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, March 28, 2019. VOA

A top Red Cross official says he’s “more concerned than I have ever been” about the possible regional spread of the Ebola virus in Congo after a recent spike in cases.

Emanuele Capobianco spoke by phone ahead of a key World Health Organization meeting in Geneva later Friday about whether to declare the Ebola outbreak in northeastern Congo an international health emergency.

ebola, congo
The International Rescue Committee (IRC), an aid group, cautioned that case numbers were on the rise. Pixabay

Capobianco, head of health and care at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, cited Congolese health ministry statistics announced on Thursday showing 40 new cases over two days this week.

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He called that rate unprecedented in the current eight-month outbreak.

He cites lack of trust about Ebola treatment in the community and insecurity caused by rebel groups that has hurt aid efforts. (VOA)

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WHO Aims to Make Breast Cancer Treatment Affordable

WHO Moves Step Closer to Cheaper Breast Cancer Treatment

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Breast Cancer
WHO tries to make breast cancer treatment affordable to women globally. Pixabay

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced Wednesday that it had for the first time approved a “biosimilar” medicine — one derived from living sources rather than chemicals — to make breast cancer treatment affordable to women globally.

The trastuzumab drug has shown “high efficacy” in curing early-stage breast cancer and in some cases more advanced forms of the disease, WHO said in a statement.

But the annual cost of the original drug is an average of $20,000, “a price that puts it out of reach of many women and healthcare systems in most countries,” the statement added.

However, the biosimilar version of trastuzumab is generally 65 percent cheaper than the original.

“With this WHO listing, and more products expected in the prequalification pipeline, prices should decrease even further,” WHO said.

The cheaper but equally effective biotherapeutic medicines are produced from biological sources such as cells rather than synthesized chemicals.

They are usually manufactured by companies after the patent on the original product has expired.

“WHO prequalification of biosimilar trastuzumab is good news for women everywhere,” said WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

A radiologist examines breast X-rays
A radiologist examines breast X-rays after a cancer prevention medical check-up at the Ambroise Pare hospital in Marseille, southern France. VOA

“Women in many cultures suffer from gender disparity when it comes to accessing health services. In poor countries, there is the added burden of a lack of access to treatment for many, and the high cost of medicines.

“Effective, affordable breast cancer treatment should be a right for all women, not the privilege of a few,” he added.

WHO prequalification 

A few biosimilars of trastuzumab have come on the market in recent years, but none had previously been prequalified by WHO.

WHO prequalification gives countries the assurance that they are purchasing “quality health products.”

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“We need to act now and try to avoid more preventable deaths,” said Dr. Mariangela Simao, WHO assistant director general for Medicines and Health Products.

“The availability of biosimilars has decreased prices, making even innovative treatments more affordable and hopefully available to more people.” (VOA)