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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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