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Trachoma Treatment A new initiative by the World Health Organization (WHO) has allowed access to antibiotics for those impacted by world’s leading cause of infectious blindness.

Almost eight million people are visually impaired due to trachoma in some of the world’s most marginalized countries. Five hundred million people are currently at risk of blindness in 57 endemic countries without proper trachoma treatment. The WHO estimates that approximately six million people have been blinded by trachoma.

Trachoma is the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness. It germinates in areas with a lack of adequate access to water and sanitation. Trachoma is caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis, is highly contagious and is easily spread through the eye, eyelid, nose or throat secretions of an infected person.

A total of 85 million people were given antibiotic trachoma treatment, an increase of 63 percent in people treated with antibiotics between 2014 and 2016. Patients were treated with the antibiotic azithromycin, a medication used specifically to fight different types of bacterial infection.

“The availability of free and quality-assured azithromycin enables us to support countries in their efforts to save the sight of millions of vulnerable people,” Minghul Ren, WHO’s Assistant Director-General for HIV/Aids, Tuberculosis, Malaria and Neglected Tropical Diseases, said.

Pfizer, an American-based organization that develops, manufactures and markets prescription medication, donates the antibiotic through the International Trachoma Initiative (ITI). Working with the WHO and other partners, ITI manages distribution alongside other assistance for trachoma treatment.

In addition to an increase of antibiotic trachoma treatment, the period between 2014 and 2016 showed an 87 percent rise in the number of people receiving operations for advanced trachoma to ensure no further eyesight loss.

Kirk Engels, Director of the Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases, said that he found the number of people who were receiving trachoma treatment—both surgically and through antibiotics—is “tremendously encouraging.”

“We encourage countries to prioritize interventions and make the much-needed additional investment to achieve the elimination of blindness due to trachoma,” Engels said.

The WHO hopes to eliminate trachoma by 2020 using a pioneering public-health strategy known as SAFE. The acronym stands for:

  • Surgery to correct trichiasis, the blinding stage of the disease
  • Antibiotics to treat active symptoms of trachoma
  • Facial cleanliness and good hygiene practices
  • Environmental improvements through water sanitation in both the community and household to reduce disease transmission.

The implementation of the SAFE program increases the effectiveness of trachoma treatment. Good hygiene practices and environmental improvements are crucial to ensuring the elimination of the disease in affected areas. With this additional aid from Pfizer and ITI, the WHO should have cause for hope.

Drew Hazzard

Photo: Flickr

Medicine Shortage in Greece Causes CrisisThe turmoil in Greece is beginning to have a dramatic effect on the healthcare of its citizens. Many pharmaceutical drugs are in extremely short supply; the government has accused the producers of halting shipments due to the current low prices in Greece. The medicine shortage has resulted in a feeling of panic across the country, as many Greeks cannot obtain the drugs they need on a daily basis.

From the corporations’ perspectives, these low prices would create opportunities for someone to purchase large quantities of drugs for a pittance in Greece. This middleman could then turn around and sell to the rest of Europe, where prices are higher, thereby drastically cutting into the profits of the drug makers.

The government, of course, is concerned with making sure that all its citizens have access to the medications that they need. Drugs for “arthritis, hepatitis C and hypertension, cholesterol-lowering agents, antipsychotics, antibiotics, [and] anaesthetics” are all in short supply — a recipe for a public health crisis.

The Secretary-General of the Panhellenic Pharmaceutical Association, Dimitris Karageorgiou, claims that drug “supplies are down by 90%,” calling the entire situation “a disgrace.” To solve the problem 0f medicine Shortage, drug companies want the government to implement a new pricing system so that middlemen will not be able to exploit price differentials between the European states. Hopefully, this standoff can be resolved so that Greek citizens can get access to the medications that they so desperately need.

Jake Simon

Source: The Guardian