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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.”