💊 Morocco’s new vaccine quality control lab; Uganda’s local diabetes drug production; Our fragile state of pandemic preparedness
#460 | Not all UPFs are equally unhealthy; Not all mosquitoes cause disease; Not all fungi are foes
Hello there. Welcome back to The Kable. Since October 7, over 3,257 children have been reported killed in Palestine and Israel. This includes 3,195 in Gaza, 33 in the West Bank, and 29 in Israel. In just three weeks, the number of children reported killed in Gaza has surpassed the annual number of children killed globally in conflict zones since 2019, according to Save the Children. With another 1,000 children reported missing in Gaza, assumed to be buried under rubble, the number is likely much higher. As more than 7,700 Palestinians have been killed since Israel’s bombing began, the UN’s independent human rights expert for the Occupied Palestinian Territory stressed that the “international community has a huge, huge responsibility in the catastrophe that is now unfolding” and criticised the Israeli government’s continued dehumanisation of Palestinian civilians.
In South Africa, Johnson & Johnson’s drug pricing continues to make news. In July, through the Stop TB Partnership’s Global Drug Facility, J&J had agreed to sell the essential TB drug Bedaquiline to LMICs for $130 (R2,470) per 6-month regime. South Africa, however, does not access this facility due to national procurement policies. So at about the same time as J&J’s announcement, South Africa’s National Health Department agreed to a price of R5,500. In September, the country’s Competition Commission declared that it would investigate J&J’s pricing of the drug. Consequently, the Department of Health now says it will be paying R3,148 per 6-month regime – that’s a 40% saving on Bedaquiline over the next two years. This cost-saving is a huge achievement, but MSF reckons the drug could be manufactured - and sold for a profit - for as little as $102 (R1,940). Either way, for now, we’ll celebrate the win.
With over 41,000 reported cases of cholera, the WHO says the Democratic Republic of Congo is experiencing one of the largest cholera outbreaks in the world this year.
In Uganda, the National Drug Authority has approved a diabetes drug which the Kampala-based Cipla Quality Chemical Industries has begun making in the country! The new oral medicine Flozicard XR - launched last week - is a combination of two anti-diabetics, reducing diabetes patients’ pill burden.
To support Africa’s vaccine manufacturing ambitions, Morocco’s Ministry of Health has inaugurated the Laboratory for Quality Control of Vaccines and Biotechnology Products in Casablanca. With a budget of MAD 25 million (~$2.5 million), this lab will help to regulate the safety, effectiveness, and quality of biopharma and biotech products in the country. Particularly, it will support the production of over 150 million vaccine doses at the MARBIO plant in the city of Ben Slimane. In future, it aims to serve as a collaborative centre for the future African Medicines Agency, providing support with quality control and human resource training.
In its latest bilateral discussion for health sector cooperation, Egypt explored potential cooperation in advanced health services, digital solutions, and medical tourism with Turkey.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is keen to localise manufacturing of 80 to 90% of its insulin needs. The National Unified Procurement Company (NUPCO), Sudair Pharmaceuticals, and Sanofi have inked an agreement to further this ambition.
In an effort to nearshore its operations for the US market, the Singapore-based contract manufacturer Forefront Medical Technology is opening a new manufacturing facility in Juarez, Mexico.
In Bangladesh, the dengue death toll now stands at at least 1,327.
Analysts from India’s Bulk Drug Manufacturers Association have noted that a bio-based material, Delta Carbon, will soon replace petroleum-based counterparts used in pharma and biotech industries. Flexible and sustainable, the material can overcome environmental challenges during processes like separating hydrophilic compounds, purifying industrial wastewater, and more.
India’s Strides Pharma Science has announced that its wholly-owned subsidiary Strides Pharma Global, Singapore has inked a binding agreement with Singapore’s Rxilient Biohub. Under the agreement, Strides will sell its manufacturing facility along with licenses, equipment, vendor contracts, and more for a total of $15 million. Rxilient will also take over the long-term lease obligation of the manufacturing facility. Strides will use the funds to reduce its debt.
FICCI and KPMG released a report titled “New age healthcare delivery models in India” last week. The report explores the influence of changing healthcare determinants and related challenges in the country, highlighting new-age models that can redefine the healthcare landscape.
In the Indian state of Kerala, the Health Minister has said that monoclonal antibodies to treat Nipah virus infections will be developed indigenously, rather than importing them from Australia. The Kerala government’s Institute of Advanced Virology, the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology, and the National Institute of Virology in Pune would help make this ambition a reality.
Finally, some good news for everyone rooting for GLP-1 agonists’ success: the European Medicines Agency says that available evidence does not support a causal link between drugs like Ozempic and thyroid cancer.
Romania and Bulgaria have both reported bird flu outbreaks among poultry.
In Ukraine, a hepatitis A outbreak has sent 141 children and adults to the hospital in the city of Vinnytsia. The cause of the outbreak has not been identified yet, but kids will be going back to online school for the time being.
The US FDA is warning consumers not to purchase or use 26 OTC eye drops from several brands as they may cause eye infection, which could even lead to vision loss in some cases. The eye drops are marketed by CVS Health, Rite Aid, Cardinal Health, Target’s up & up brand, and Velocity Pharma. Manufacturers have been asked to recall all lots of the products after insanitary conditions were detected in the manufacturing facility. CVS, Rite Aid, and Target are removing the products from their stores and websites.
The Global Health Innovative Technology Fund, or GHIT Fund, and the Medicines Patent Pool have inked an MoU to strengthen their collaboration to improve access to medicines, especially in LMICs. The collab will streamline tech transfer processes and promote effective deployment of innovative medical technologies.
And finally, in the latest deal under its 100 Days Mission, CEPI has entered a strategic partnership with Moderna to harness the latter’s mRNA platform to speed up the development of vaccines against global viral threats.