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Ending the scourge of black fever in India

Page history last edited by Rosemary 11 years, 6 months ago

Ending the scourge of black fever in India: non-profit pharmaceutical company brings back an affordable cure

Black fever, also known as kala-azar, is the world's most deadly parasitic disease after malaria. Each year it kills about 500,000 people, who rapidly lose weight and die painfully with swollen livers and spleens. Years ago a treatment for black fever was found; however, because all those who suffered from black fever were poor, pharmaceutical companies saw no profit and shelved the drug.

Now a remarkable new kind of charity, a not-for-profit pharmaceutical company called the Institute for One World Health (IOWH), has resurrected the shelved drug, paromomyocin, proved its efficacy to the Indian government and, with funds from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is planning to make it available in the worst-affected parts of India. In tests 94.6% of patients treated with paromomyocin were cured. The drug costs $10 per patient, less than one-tenth of any available alternative.

Having proved the concept, the IOWH is moving on to tackle malaria and diarrhoea.

The institute is the brainchild of a remarkable American woman, Victoria Hale. Before attracting the funding their idea deserves, Dr Hale and her husband devoted 2½ years and much of their money to building the IOWH as the first non-profit pharmaceutical company.

On June 15, 2006 Gland Pharma Limited and the Institute for One World Health submitted the dossier to the Drug-Controller General of India (DCGI). Paromomycin Intramuscular (IM) Injection was approved on August 31, 2006 for the treatment of Visceral Leishmaniasis (VL). Gland Pharma Limited, the manufacturer, will distribute the product within India, with sales initially restricted to use in the National Vector Borne Disease Control Program (NVBDCP) only.

IOWH will seek regulatory approval with either the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or the European Union European Medicines Evaluation Agency (EMEA); approval in other VL-endemic countries, such as Bangladesh, Sudan, Brazil and Nepal will then follow.

The current unique public-private partnership with Gland Pharma Limited is expected to supply the needs of the worldwide Paromomycin Injection market for the treatment of VL. The ultimate goal is to use Paromomycin Injection as a key tool in the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme to eliminate kala azar from India, and shortly thereafter, Bangladesh and Nepal.

This story is excerpted from an article by Ken Burnett, a trustee of ActionAid International, printed in the Guardian Weekly, and from information relating to Visceral Leishmaniasis on the website of the Institute for One World Health.


IOWH received funding for its work from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which provides a case study of this project on its site. In 2005, the Foundation also provided additional funding to iOWH to launch a pilot program in India that will help identify how to deliver paromomycin in the world’s poorest rural settings. Some patients will receive paromomycin in government-run district hospitals and clinics, but others wll receive it through non-governmental organizations, such as the Bihar-based Janani network. The Foundation also is working with other grantees, including the University of North Carolina and the Infectious Disease Research Institute, to help develop the next generation of VL drugs.


Also see:

New test a vital tool for fighting endemic kala azar in Mediterranean region


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