Snake Anti-Venom Supply is Dwindling

Will expire by June 2016

We will run out of anti-venom for Africa's deadliest snakes in 2016, warns Doctors Without Borders. (Herman Pijpers / Flickr)
Photo: Herman Pijpers / Flickr Doctors Without Boarders

Doctors Without Borders warns that the world’s supply of Fav-Afrique, the most effective snakebite treatment in Sub-Saharan Africa, will expire in June 2016, the BBC reported Tuesday. The anti-venom’s manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur, says that it is not cost-effective to continue producing Fav-Afrique and has moved on to producing a rabies treatment. 

Doctors Without Borders told the Washington Post that snakebites are “one of the world’s most neglected public health emergencies." Five million snakebites happen every year, killing an estimated 100,000 people and leaving 400,000 permanently disabled or disfigured. Of those deaths, 30,000 occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, and an estimated 8,000 people in the region require amputations each year.

Fav-Afrique is the best proven antidote for ten different types of deadly snake venom in Sub-Saharan Africa. Alternatives exist, but they are either not as effective or do not treat a broad range of snakebites. 

"Most people who get bitten by a snake aren't exactly sure what kind of snake it is that bit them, and so having an anti-venom that works against a variety of different species is really important,” Polly Markandya of Doctors Without Borders told the BBC. "We are worried that without that anti-venom available, people will die unnecessarily."

Sanofi Pasteur offered to share the anti-venom formula with other companies and is negotiating with another manufacturer, but Doctors Without Borders doesn’t expect these talks to culminate in a replacement product for another two years. 

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