💊 An emissions canyon; A shot in the dark?; A MAP for East Africa
#476 | Lighting up your meds; Smoking too much pot in your genes; Helping deadly superbugs with global warming
Hello, and welcome back to The Kable. In West Africa, the early warning system, which became operational in 2008, had been decentralised in 2015. Currently, there are 11 operational National Centres for the Coordination of Response Mechanism (NCCRMs), with another four set to become operational next year. The Early Warning Directorate of the ECOWAS Commission has collaborated with the West African Health Organisation (WAHO) to strengthen the capacity of Health Analysts of NCCRMs in Member States. During a recently concluded four-day training session, participants discussed the Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response System (IDRS), public health surveillance and preparedness, crisis communication, and more. NCCRMs also shared their respective experiences of early warning and response coordination activities.
We’ve spoken of Africa’s brain drain, or Japa syndrome, several times in The Kable. And over the months (and years), not much has appeared to change. The Continent sheds light on who bears the burden of missing doctors. As over 55,000 African doctors work in 15 of the world’s richest countries, healthcare on the continent often relies on overworked and unmentored interns. Unless you count YouTube videos as mentoring.
The Amhara region in Ethiopia is not having a good time of it. Amidst a drought and armed conflict, the second most populous region in the country is also facing outbreaks of measles, malaria, and cholera. The WHO has been collaborating with local partners to provide financial and technical support. One success includes reaching over 1.9 million individuals with an oral cholera vaccination (OCV) campaign in the region, in spite of all prevailing challenges.
Over the weekend, Senegal’s legislature approved the government’s proposal of $452 million for the national health budget. This accounts for 3.9% of next year’s annual budget. Compared to the 2023 health budget, this marks a 9% increase. Still, it is nowhere close to pledges made way back in 2001, when African Union nations targeted spending at least 15% of their annual budgets on the health sector.
The Rwanda FDA has recalled 22 herbal medicines after lab tests showed that they failed to meet safety and quality standards. This announcement builds on the 2022 ban of certain products, some of which were discovered during post-marketing surveillance.
Across the Indian Ocean, Bangladesh’s Square Pharmaceuticals is investing an initial $1 million to open Samson Pharma in the Philippines. The new company will be involved in the marketing and distribution of pharma products, and is expected to open shop in April 2024.
Meanwhile, the dengue outbreak in Bangladesh has touched a new high. Cases have crossed the 300,000 mark.
In India, the Central Government has presented a new draft National Pharmacy Commission Bill, 2023, to replace the nearly 75-year-old Pharmacy Act. Proposals include a National Pharmacy Register with details of all pharmacy professionals and the replacement of the Pharmacy Council of India with a national commission. The Health Ministry has uploaded a draft of the bill on its website and is seeking comments from the public.
Today brings two important Covid vaccine-related updates. One, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has investigated anecdotal reports of “sudden unexplained deaths” and found no evidence that Covid vaccination was responsible for them.
BioNTech believes that Moderna’s Covid vaccine-linked patents should never have been granted as they did not meet necessary requirements. Now, in litigation about an alleged patent violation by BioNTech and Pfizer, BioNTech says that the European Patent Office has declared the mRNA patent invoked by Moderna as invalid.
A study from the Keck School of Medicine of USC has found a correlation between Mexican Americans’ liver cancer risk and the amount of time their family had lived in the US. Not the American dream they came looking for.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded $16 million to the Malaria Atlas Project (MAP), the home of the world’s largest malaria database. Based in Perth, Western Australia, MAP uses geospatial modelling and analytics to monitor the disease globally and track the impact of malaria control policies and programmes. Part of the BMGF grant will contribute to the establishment of a new MAP Node - housed within the Ifakara Health Institute, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania - in East Africa.
Say hello and welcome to Evinova, AstraZeneca’s new health-tech unit. Its main focus is going to be to help optimise clinical trials for clinical trial sponsors and CROs. Operating as a separate business within AstraZeneca, the unit is already name-dropping – it has collaborations with CROs Parexel and Fortrea and companies like Accenture and Amazon Web Services lined up already.
Fosun Pharma’s US branch and consulting firm Treehill Partners have a new collab coming up. With an initial focus on innovative oncology meds, the new business will invest in mid- to late-stage clinical programmes with an American dream.
And finally, we’ve done it. We’ve crossed a new threshold. A provisional finding from the Copernicus Climate Change Service says that for the first time on record, the global average temperature on Friday was over 2°C hotter than pre-industrial levels.