Sanofi-aventis Sleeping Sickness Program
Sleeping sickness has reemerged in Africa as a major health threat. In 2001, sanofi-aventis committed USD 25 million over the years 2001-2006 to help the World Health Organization (WHO) to implement a strategy of adequate medicine supplies, disease surveillance and management, plus R&D for new treatments. After five years, WHO and sanofi-aventis' efforts were estimated to have saved 110,000 lives. In 2006, the company renewed its contract with the WHO and expanded it to address several additional 'most neglected diseases' (see separate entry). It has committed to provide a further USD 14 million over the years 2006-2011, with continued medicines donation for sleeping sickness, and funding for training, control & diagnostic programs. It is also working to make eflornithine a more 'ready to use' and safer treatment. By the end of 2008, more than 1,250,000 vials of eflornithine, pentamidine and melarsoprol had been distributed . Since the peak of 37,000 patients in 1998, 3 years before the signing of the WHO-sanofi-aventis partnership, the number of patients diagnosed and treated each year has been declining, down to less than 11,000 in 2008. Sanofi-aventis delivered donated medicines to Medecins sans Frontieres logistics and funds their storage and distribution, on behalf of the WHO, to national control programs and to NGOs. Since 2006, donated drugs have been distributed by the WHO to 37 countries - 20 endemic and17 non-endemic countries, in Europe, Asia, and the Americas; Sanofi-aventis funds disease management and control programs, including screening of populations in endemic areas, medical staff training, and surveillance of resistance to treatments. Thanks to this program, screening and treatment teams were back in the field in more than 25 sub-Saharan countries, including Angola, Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda and the Republic of Congo. Sanofi-aventis also helped fund development of new therapies through the UNDP-World Bank-WHO Special Program for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases (TDR). These included an oral form of eflornithine (stopped in 2007) and a combination of eflornithine from sanofi-aventis and nifurtimox from Bayer HealthCare ('NECT'). With successful results in clinical trials, the development of this combination treatment has been completed and it is now being used to treat sleeping sickness- see Nifurtimox-Eflornithine below.