The Government of Ghana has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Novartis, a global pharmaceutical company, to create a new public-private partnership aimed at improving diagnoses and accelerating the treatment of people with sickle cell disease.
The Minister of Health, Mr Kwaku Agyemang-Manu, signed for the Ministry of Health, while the Director General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, signed for his institution.
The President of the Sickle Cell Foundation of Ghana and Programme Coordinator of the Newborn Screening Programme for Sickle Cell Disease, Prof. Kwaku Ohene-Frempong, signed for the other allied institutions, with the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Novartis, Dr Vas Narasimhan, signing for his outfit.
The signing was done on the sidelines of the ongoing 2019 edition of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
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Mr Agyemang-Manu said the collaboration with the pharmaceutical company would help improve healthcare delivery, as well as reduce preventable deaths.
“We are pleased to partner the Sickle Cell Foundation and Novartis to address sickle cell disease in Ghana,” he said.
Dr Nsiah-Asare, for his part, noted that the partnership with Novartis would come with many benefits for persons with sickle cell disease, as it would reduce treatment costs and improve access to cutting-edge research materials.
The collaboration, according to him, would also enable Novartis to test innovative sickle treatments in the country, a move which he said would also provide data for further studies.
He explained that the partnership was already yielding results, with Novartis submitting, in October last year, Hydroxyurea, the current general standard of care for severe sickle cell disease, for registration of the specific indication of sickle cell disease in Ghana.
He hinted that the Food and Drugs Authority had since granted marketing authorisation for Hydroxyurea to be available to patients in Ghana this year.
“Discussions are underway for the inclusion of medicine and associated laboratory testing in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), as well as prioritise this as a national programme, with direct distribution through the Ministry of Health,” Dr Nsiah-Asare noted.
Sickle Cell Foundation
Prof. Ohene-Frempong said Ghana was one of the few African countries that had a newborn screening programme, adding that there was not a single country that tested all their children for sickle cell disease.
As a result, he said: “We are losing hundreds of thousands of babies across Africa each year without even a diagnosis of the disease and, therefore, this collaboration will bring global attention to this disease.”
Dr Narasimhan said his organisation had a long-term commitment to ensure that its medicines and health care in general were accessible to as many patients as possible.
Vice-President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia, who is attending the World Economic Forum, thanked Novartis for working with the Government of Ghana to improve access to and the quality of healthcare delivery.