Aga Khan University’s Associate Professor of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, Dr Kauser Jabeen who is Pakistan’s ambassador for Global Action Fund for Fungal Infections (GAFFI), commented that it is becoming increasingly difficult in Pakistan to treat fungal infections as life-saving and safer antifungal medicines are often not available, available in limited amounts or are expensive and unaffordable.
The world is in the grip of a global crisis that kills the equivalent of the populations of Philadelphia, Kampala or Prague – around 1.6 million each year.
Fungal infections attack the skin, hair or nails, can cause serious infections in the lungs and may spread through the body and, without the drugs to fight back, claim the lives of over 3,500 people every day.
A new study has found that two critical antifungal medicines that are used to treat life threatening infections are either unavailable or unaffordable in over 95 countries, including Pakistan.
In Pakistan, a nationwide population-based survey of fungal infections has never been carried out and so the public health burden they represent is unknown. Only limited data available is from laboratory and hospital-based reports. Yet the population at high risk from life-threatening fungal infections that are a consequence of other health problems such TB, diabetes, chronic respiratory diseases, asthma, cancer, organ transplant and HIV is growing.
The report says that one of the critical drugs for fungal meningitis in AIDS – amphotericin B – is not available in 42 countries. The other key drug, flucytosine, is unavailable in at least 95 countries. Yet both have been available in Europe and the US for over 40 years. The World Health Organization recommends they are used together to bring down mortality from 100 to 25 per cent.
The 25 year old drug fluconazole is available in all countries and itraconazole is unavailable in just five countries. However, being available is not enough – price also matters as patients pay for their care in many countries. The daily cost of fluconazole varied from US$ 1 to 31, and itraconazole from US$ 1 to 102. In South Africa, which has the largest AIDS burden in the world and a massive TB problem, itraconazole costs about £11.60 per day – unaffordable for most people there.
- Aga Khan University: Millions deprived of life-saving antifungal medicines
- University of Manchester: Millions deprived of life saving antifungal medicines, report find
- Global Action Fund for Fungal Infections (GAFFI)
- The News International Pakistan: Lives at risk as antifungal medicines are either unavailable or costly: study
- Dawn Pakistan: Millions deprived of antifungal medicines