Ghana’s Vice-President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia has said just like President Nana Akufo-Addo, he also cares about the welfare of Ghanaians suffering from sickle cell disease.
Speaking at the launch of the first public-private partnership between Ghana and global pharmaceutical company Novartis, designed to ease the pain of sickle cell patients in Ghana and improve their lives, Dr Bawumia expressed his delight at the intervention.
“Like many of our people, the President and I share a great concern about sickle cell disease. We share the concern of the burden that the disease places on their health and lives of those who live with it. We care about the effects it has on their families and society as a whole”, Dr Bawumia said on Wednesday, 6 November 2019.
“The President and I are happy to see the concerted efforts that are being made to ease the pain and improve the lives of people with the disease in our country. Indeed, I am delighted to be here today to bear witness to those efforts and to support the promise of better days for our people who live with this difficult disease”, he added.
Approximately 80% of individuals with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) globally are born in sub-Saharan Africa, and more than half of the affected individuals die before the age of five due to preventable complications. In Ghana, it is estimated that 15,000 babies are born with sickle cell disease every year.
The launch of the Ghana-Novartis partnership makes Ghana the first African country to commit to offering a high standard of care for its people with sickle cell disease.
Ghana, through the partnership with Novartis, is set to establish eleven Centres of Excellence across the country for the treatment of sickle cell disease.
According to officials of the Ministry of Health, these centres will raise the standards of care for people with sickle cell disease through new Treatment Guidelines, assist efforts to expand Ghana’s Newborn Screening Programme for Sickle Cell Disease, and help train healthcare professionals in the modern management of sickle cell disease. These Centers will also take part in research into new treatments for sickle cell disease.
Under the partnership, Novartis will provide through the Ministry of Health the critical drug, Hydroxyurea, already approved by the Food and Drugs Authority, to sickle cell patients. The drug will initially be provided free of charge to patients and will subsequently be subsidised and provided by the National Health Insurance Scheme.
The partnership, Dr Bawumia said, is a “game-changer and a breakthrough for sickle cell patients in Ghana”.
He expressed his appreciation to “Dr Vas Narisamhan and his team at Novartis as well as Professor Ohene Frimpong, President of the Sickle Cell Foundation of Ghana, for working so hard on this project”.
“With the seeds being sown by the Ghana-Novartis partnership, support from our National Health Insurance Scheme for newborn screening, hydroxyurea, and new treatments on the horizon, Ghana would become the first country in Africa to change the story of sickle cell disease for our people from pain, stigma, and despair to comfort, hope, and achievement”, the Vice-President said.
“Our goal, collectively, he added: “Is to re-imagine what our nation could look like and aspire to where children attend school without being singled out; where young adults can be employed without fear of their condition, and marriages continue to be the bedrock of our civil society”.
Explaining the rationale behind his company’s decision to partner with the government of Ghana, Dr Vas Narasimhan, CEO of Novartis stated: “Novartis has a long-term commitment to ensuring that our medicines, and healthcare in general, are accessible to as many patients as possible. Our hope is that we’ll continue to reimagine the way this disease is treated in order to offer better medicines and improved care to sickle cell patients in Africa and around the world. I am proud that Novartis is committed to addressing this challenge.”