Pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline supports de-worming of children

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) one of the world’s leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies has donated millions of tablets of Albendazole towards the treatment of school children at risk of intestinal worms- soil-transmitted
helminths (STH).

The gesture would enable the World Health Organisation (WHO) to de-worm school children in Africa as well as other STH endemic countries in Asia Pacific and Latin America.

This was contained in a GSK statement, made available to the Ghana News Agency in Accra at the weekend by Mr Samuel Nkansah, Head of Government Affairs, Anglophone West Africa.

It explained that intestinal worms are the main cause of disease burden in developing countries, often resulting in stunted growth, anaemia, malnutrition and poor school performance.

According to the GSK statement, the donation demonstrates the company’s commitment to expand the provision of Albendazole to WHO to treat school children at risk of STH.

An agreement signed between the two bodies formalises the pledge made by GSK in October 2010 to provide an additional 400 million tablets of albendazole to the initial commitment of 600 million tablets per year for use in the Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis commonly known as elephantiasis.

This brings GSK’s total donation commitment to the WHO to one billion tablets of albendazole each year.

The Chief Executive Officer of GSK, Andrew Witty, said: “GSK is committed to playing its part in tackling diseases that affect the world’s poorest countries by investing in the development of new medicines and vaccines and taking steps to increase access to existing treatments.

“In formalising this important agreement, we will help to ensure that there are sufficient volumes of de-worming medicines available to meet the need across the world.”

He said giving one tablet once a year to a child is a simple but of essence is a powerful intervention which can improve their health and development and as a result their academic performance, with the hope of breaking the cycle of poverty in these countries.

To meet this commitment, Mr Witty said GSK has invested in its factory in South Africa to increase its production capacity of Albendazole with the first new production due to come on stream next month.

Dr Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO commended GSK for its commitment which has continued to contribute to the provision of wider coverage for the millions of children worldwide who silently suffer from the prolonged effects of intestinal worms.

The first African countries to benefit from the package, Togo and Rwanda, have received early shipments of Albendazole treatments to begin scaling-up their school based de-worming efforts.

Mozambique, Namibia, Uganda and Burkina Faso are expected to begin the de-worming programmes over the next 12 months.

The WHO has recommended annual treatment of children in endemic areas with single dose de-worming medicines such as albendazole, which has resulted in substantial improvements in child health and development.

The de-worming exercise has also improved school attendance, academic performance of school children and productivity and is targeted to reduce the burden on already overstretched health systems.

According to WHO statistics, intestinal worms affect around 800 million children between the ages of five to 14 years in low-income countries, and account for 11-12 per cent of the total disease burden in this age group.

Source: GNA

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