Friday, March 30, 2007

Meningitis vaccine for Africa

From BBC News

New low-cost vaccine for Africa
By Angus Crawford
BBC News

Child being vaccinated against meningitis
Children are especially vulnerable to meningitis
For the first time, Europe's largest drugs company, GSK, is starting the registration process for a vaccine from which it never expects to make money.

Globorix will only be used in Africa to prevent meningitis at prices that may never cover its research costs.

Experts say it is a sign big companies are changing their business practices, but some critics say it is not enough.

Millions of people in Africa are at risk from meningitis, which can kill a child in six hours.

The new vaccine, Globorix, cost more than $400 million (£204m) to develop, but will only be sold and used in Africa.

There are 12 big pharmaceutical firms worldwide but only four have centres specialising in diseases like TB, malaria and HIV.

"While a few companies such as GSK have sharply increased their research into drugs and vaccines for neglected diseases, there is still a lot of room for improvement across the board," Anne Laure Ropars said.

Globorix could soon start coming off a production line at a factory in Belgium.

It seems changing the way big pharmaceutical companies do business can also save lives.

Dr Richard Barker from the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry said: "This is only one of many things that the pharmaceutical companies are doing for the developing world. For the last five or six years the industry has spent something like two and a half billion of its own money developing medicines for neglected diseases, giving away or giving at cost medicines to sub Saharan Africa and elsewhere in the world. So this is not an isolated example of a general response."


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