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Snakebite treatment running out worldwide

Thrasops jacksonii, Black tree snake, Uganda

Around five million people worldwide are bitten by snakes every year according to figures by WHO (World Health Organisation) – but experts are now warning that stockpiles of the most effective anti-venom available could run out.

The anti-venom, called Fav-Afrique, is primarily used in Sub-Saharan Africa to treat most deadly snakebites. It was developed by Sanofi, a French pharmaceutical company.

Sanofi say they have been priced out of the market due to competitors selling cheaper drugs, which are seen as less effective. Existing batches of the anti-venom will expire in June next year.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), a charity that helps to protect developing countries against disease, warned against the lack of antidote available, saying it could lead to an increased number of deaths and injuries from snakebites.

“We are now facing a real crisis, so why do governments, pharmaceutical companies and global health bodies walk away when we need them most?” says Snakebite expert Gabriel Alcoba.

No replacement for the antivenom will be available for another two years, experts from MSF explain.

Alain Bernal, a spokesperson for Sanofi, said the company had offered to transfer anti-venom technology to other companies but no interest was shown.

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