Increase of kala azar in Kenya brings generic drugs for treatment
A substantial increase in numbers of kala azar cases in Northeast Kenya has
sparked the need to find cheaper alternatives for treatment. The
government has run out of the original version of SSG (Pentostam), used in treatment, and has transferred all available stocks from areas of endemic kala azar to the area of the outbreak.
Kala azar is a form of visceral leishmaniasis, characterized by irregular fever, weight loss, splenomegaly and anaemia. Death is from
uncontrolled bleeding or secondary opportunistic infections. More than nine out of every ten people infected die
without treatment. It is one of the diseases being covered in the MSF Access to Essential Medicines Campaign.
The Kenyan Ministry of Health cannot afford to purchase enough Pentostam for
the outbreak and replace the depleted stocks. However a cheaper alternative for the SSG drug has been found in a generic form from which is approxiatley 1/14th of the price of the brand-name drug.
The generic SSG is
produced in India and imported through International Dispensary Association (IDA) has been shown to be
clinically equivalent and within acceptable toxicity standards through
studies in North Sudan and Bangladesh.
However, the government was hesitant to simply substitute the generic
form and initially requested that a comparative study be performed.
MSF has persuaded the ministry that a six-month study was unnecessary and to agree to register generic SSG immediately after receiving the appropriate paperwork and performing standard laboratory tests.
This special three-month registration of the generic SSG will be
extended as long as unusual side effects form the medicine are not
observed. UNICEF has pledged money to purchase the generic SSG.