The first public-private partnership between Ghana and global medicines company Novartis, designed to ease the pain and improve the lives of people with sickle cell disease in Ghana, has been launched in Accra by the Vice President of the Republic, Dr Mahamudu Bawumia.

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, and the country, through the Partnership with Novartis, is set to establish eleven Centers of Excellence across Ghana for the treatment of sickle cell disease.

According to officials of the Ministry of Health, these Centers 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 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 subsidized and provided by the National Health Insurance Scheme.

Speaking at the launch on Wednesday, 6th November 2019, Vice President Bawumia bemoaned the pain and suffering patients with sickle cell disease go through, and expressed his delight at the steps being taken to alleviate this pain.

“Like many of our people, the President and I share 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 on society as a whole.

“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.”

Approximately 80% of individuals with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) globally are born in sub-Saharan Africa, and more than half of 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 Partnership, Vice President Bawumia said, is a “game changer and a breakthrough for sickle cell patients in Ghana. My thanks 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.

“Our goal collectively 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.”

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