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African health experts meet in Kenya to boost palliative care

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- African health experts met in Nairobi on Wednesday to boost the provision of palliative care to help cope with the rising number of terminally ill patients.

Cabinet Secretary for Health James Macharia said the rising number of non-communicable diseases in the continent has created the need for palliative care.

“Kenya has already begun to integrate palliative care in public hospitals across the country,” Macharia said during the fourth Kenya National Palliative Care Conference, which brought together some 200 participants from over ten African countries.

Macharia said Kenya is also planning to integrate palliative care at all levels of care right down to community level, thus ensuring patients have access to services closer to their homes.

The health ministry said that they currently holding talks with the National Treasury with a view of increasing the budgetary allocation for palliative care.

The CS noted that chronic diseases like HIV/AIDS, cancer, cardio vascular diseases and diabetes are a major cause of human suffering.

“This is because they don’t cause sudden death but are more likely to cause a lot of pain and emotional suffering, making people to become progressively ill and debilitated,” he said, adding that these conditions reduce national productivity by draining away resources.

Macharia added that barriers that lead to patients presenting late for medical care include inadequate diagnostic, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, poor health seeking behavior, poverty as well as the high cost of care. He noted that palliative care is equally relevant to tuberculosis and end-stage organ failure.

The CS said that over 10,000 Kenyans seek medical services abroad annually, with  the United Arab Emirates, South Africa and India being the most popular destinations.

Zipporah Ali, Executive Director with  Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA) said palliative care provides the most realistic and humane management of terminal stages of cancer and other non-communicable diseases.

“Palliative care reduces the pain and suffering and also improves the quality of life of patients and their families,” Ali said.

She added that lack of access to pain relieving drugs is partly due to inadequate training of clinicians on assessing and managing pain as well as regulatory barriers.

The executive director said that laws aimed at protecting populations from drug dependence do not always strike the right balance between this legitimate aim and genuine medical needs, noting that many HIV/Aids and cancer strategies do not address this adequately.

African Palliative Care Association (APCA) Executive Director Emmanuel Luyirika said that love and care underpin the palliative services that provide holistic care.  “It affirms life and regards dying as a normal process,” he said, adding that palliative care offers spiritual and psychological support to patients enabling them to live as actively and symptom free as possible until death.

He noted that the care can be provided through hospital and home-based care considering that Africa has a high burden of people living with HIV/AIDS and cancer.


Africa urged to set up drug regulatory bodies to curb counterfeit drugs

NAIROBI, (Xinhua) -- An international veterinary body on Saturday urged African governments to set up effective regulatory bodies in order to prevent use of counterfeit veterinary drugs.

Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines (GALVmed) Senior Director of Policy and External Affairs Hameed Nuru told Xinhua on Saturday that this will ensure that there is adequate registration and quality control testing of drugs that enter their countries or are manufactured locally.

“Many African countries do not have regulatory agencies and where they do exist, the veterinary component is weak as most are human drug oriented,” Nuru said in an email interview.

A study, which was conducted jointly by the World Organization for Animal Health and GALVmed in West Africa four years ago, indicates that 67 percent of veterinary drugs evaluated were either fake or counterfeit.

“In some cases, we found that the active ingredient was present, but in far less amounts than stated on the packaging resulting in under dosing while in other instances the active ingredient was totally absent from the drug,” he said.

Nuru noted that regional regulatory bodies will also ensure that a drug registered in one country can be safely used in another.

He noted that strong legislation will ensure there is punitive action against   those involved in the illicit veterinary trade. “This can be augmented by having much better enforcement and compliance checks,” Nuru said.

GALVmed said the continent suffers economic losses that run into tens of millions of U.S. dollars annually as a result of the proliferation of the counterfeit and substandard drugs.

“The losses come from animals dying following treatment or vaccination,” he said. The physical losses in numbers of animals, which shrinks the national population size translates into loss of country’s productivity, Nuru said.

“African countries are therefore forced to import animal products which cost millions of dollars,” Nuru said. The losses can also contribute to decreased food security.

“So the farmer suffers a triple loss, from buying the fake product, being charged for administration and in the end the animal dies anyway.”

Experts have warned that use of substandard or counterfeits can lead to the build up of drug resistance to common livestock diseases. The situation is further compounded by the lack of modern laboratories to test animal diseases.

According to GALVmed, the drug manufacturers need to have better ways of policing their products in order to beat the counterfeiters.

“This can be achieved through the use of security logos, holograms or other features on the packaging and vessels which farmers can be made aware of prior to purchase,” he said.

“This should be complemented by awareness and sensitization campaigns by government and drug companies especially in areas where there is a high prevalence of fake products,” he added.

Nuru noted that demand for livestock products in Africa is expected to increase in the coming decades. “This will be fueled by expanding population and rising middle class,” he said.

The GALVmed director said a significant proportion is engaged in agriculture and livestock rearing. “Yet agriculture contributes only 13 percent of the continent’s Gross Domestic Product,” he said.

The majority of livestock in the continent is owned by small scale farmers, but there is a growing number of commercial livestock farmers.

The rapid population has caused the subdivision of land. This is also reducing the amount of land available for livestock rearing.

Counterfeit and substandard drugs also result in the loss of the trust and confidence by the farmer in veterinary products and the supply chains selling such drugs.

“It takes a long time to rebuild trust and this is where branded products can help in the fight against counterfeits,” he said. 



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