Doctors Without Borders, the international humanitarian aid organization, has reported that stockpiles of its vital snakebite anti-venom will be gone by June 2016. French drugmaker Sanofi stopped making the product at the end of 2014, and another won't be available for two more years. The Washington Post reports:
"We are now facing a real crisis," Gabriel Alcoba, a medical specialist in snakebites for Doctors Without Borders or Medicins Sans Frontieres in French, said in a statement release Monday.
The aid organization called snakebites "one of the world's most neglected public health emergencies -- with an estimated 5 million people are bitten by snakes and 100,000 dying from the bites and 400,000 being permanently disabled or disfigured. However, Doctors Without Borders said, "global health actors show worrying little interest in the issue."
Polly Markandya of MSF said: "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.
"We are worried that without that anti-venom available, people will die unnecessarily."
Alain Bernal, a Sanofi Pasteur spokesman, said the company had offered to transfer the anti-venom technology to others, adding: "Nothing has materialised yet."
The World Health Organization says snakebites are a neglected issue that needs more attention and investment.
Each year, an estimated five million people worldwide are bitten by snakes, out of whom 100,000 die and 400,000 are permanently disabled or disfigured.
In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, 30,000 people die from snakebite every year and an estimated 8,000 undergo amputations.