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Hydroxyurea, Sickle Cell Medicine, now available in Ghana

The Government on Wednesday announced the availability of hydroxyurea for the treatment of people with the Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) in Ghana.

Hydroxyurea is a commonly used medicine for patients with SCD in developed countries, and was approved by the Food and Drugs Authority in 2018 for use in both adults and children in Ghana.

This implied that Ghana has become the first country in Africa to commit to offering the global standard of care for people with SCD.

Currently, 15,000 babies of the 950,000 born in Ghana every year have Sickle Cell Disease.

This was announced at the National Launch of the Public-Private Partnership initiative between the Ghana Health Service and the Ministry of Health on one side and Novartis, an international pharmaceutical company, and the Sickle Cell Foundation of Ghana on the other side, in Accra.

The event was held on the theme: “A Public-Private Partnership: To Ease the Pain and Improve the Lives of People with Sickle Cell Disease in Ghana,” which attracted stakeholders in the health sector and sickle cell community.

The launch follows the signing of a five-year Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on January 24, 2019 by the partners in Davos, Switzerland, at the 2019 World Economic Forum, to improve the diagnosis and speed up the treatment for people with Sickle Cell Disease.

Vice President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, speaking at the official launch of the partnership towards its implementation in Accra, said the collaboration would help ease the pain and improve the lives of people living with the disease.

He called for universal screening of new-born babies for SCD in the country and believed that the partnership would be a game changer for healthcare in Ghana.

“We are committed to put SCD among the priorities on our national health agenda and to take the necessary steps to make treatment broadly available through our National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) to bring much-needed relief to families struggling to cover the cost of care for their loved ones,” the Vice President.

He was of the conviction that the new medicine would improve the lives of people living with SCD, eradicate the stigma associated with the sickness and carriers would have equal opportunities for employment.

Mr Vas Narasimhan, the Chief Executive Officer of Novartis, in an address said Novartis was committed to reimagining medicine for patients in Ghana and across Africa to improve diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

He said 60,000 hydroxyurea doses would be supplied to SCD patients by the end of the year and would collaborate with Zipline Technologies to use drones to distribute Sickle Cell vaccines to hard-to-reach areas in Ghana.

Professor Kwaku Ohene-Frempong, the President of the Sickle Cell Foundation of Ghana, said hydroxyurea is a medicine of proven efficacy in reducing pain episodes and other complications of the disease.

The launch was chaired by Nii Okwei Kinka Dowuona VI, the President of the OSU Traditional Council, who urged government to make the medicine affordable to all sickle cell patients in the country and commended the partners for a initiating a worthy cause.


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