AstraZeneca launches initiative to improve asthma care in Africa

29 Jan 2021, 12:00 am
Financial Nigeria


According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over 80 per cent of asthma-related deaths occur in low- and lower-middle income countries.

AstraZeneca headquarters

AstraZeneca, the global innovation-driven biopharmaceutical company, has launched an initiative aimed at improving paediatric and adult asthma management in Africa. Called Africa PUMUA Initiative, the innovative programme is designed to be implemented in partnership with governments and healthcare professionals, according to a statement on Thursday by the drug manufacturer.

The programme was launched yesterday with a partnership between AstraZeneca, the Ethiopian Federal Ministry of Health and the Ethiopian Thoracic Society (ETS). Under the partnership, AstraZeneca will provide 150 nebuliser machines to various hospitals within Ethiopia and establish 47 nebulisation stations. According to AstraZeneca Ethiopia, the nebulisers will be allocated in consultation with the health ministry and ETS. The ETS is a society for professionals in the field of chest and pulmonary medicine.

Globally, more than 339 million people are living with asthma, with over 40 million of them living in Africa. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), over 80 per cent of asthma-related deaths occur in low- and lower-middle income countries.

AstraZeneca said it launched the Africa PUMUA Initiative to highlight its commitment to improving the health outcomes of patients in Africa. The initiative aims to address the barriers currently preventing access to care for asthma patients. This will be achieved by increasing awareness of the symptoms and risks of asthma, building the capacity of healthcare workers, strengthening local health systems, and providing equitable access to AstraZeneca’s respiratory medicines.

“We are unwavering in our commitment to improve care for asthma patients across Africa,” said Barbara Nel, AstraZeneca Country President for African Cluster. “People living with asthma should have the ability to live normal lives and deserve the best care. By working  together to boost local medical knowledge and expertise and building an infrastructure for asthma patients, through the donation of nebulisation machines, nebulisation stations, spirometers and peak flow meters, we believe we will be able to redefine asthma care in Ethiopia.”

It is estimated that more than five million people in Ethiopia are living with asthma. According to ETS president, Tewodros Haile Gebremariam, there has been no national treatment guidelines for the diagnosis and treatment of the condition.

“The Ethiopian Thoracic Society strongly believes that the implementation of the Africa PUMUA initiative will contribute significantly to the effective diagnosis and management of Asthma,” said Gebremariam. “The capacity building activities and the update and alignment of treatment guidelines and protocols for chronic asthma to GINA (Global Initiative for Asthma management) guidelines, will help to improve outcomes for asthma patients in Ethiopia.”

Apart from Ethiopia, the Africa PUMUA Initiative has been launched in five other African countries, Ghana, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Senegal. It will be subsequently expanded to other countries.

Ethiopian health minister, Dereje Duguma, said the ministry supports investment in the country by pharmaceutical companies. He said it is one of the key strategic areas for investment in Ethiopia, adding, “Through this important Public-Private Partnerships with the AstraZeneca Pharmaceutical and the Ethiopian Thoracic Society, we will bring immense transformation to asthma care.”

The Cambridge, United Kingdom-headquartered drug company said the programme is part of its sustainability commitment to deliver improved accessibility, acceptability, affordability and availability of quality care in Africa. The three sustainability priorities for AstraZeneca are access to healthcare, environmental protection as well as ethics and transparency.

Following the COVID-19 outbreak, AstraZeneca partnered with the University of Oxford to develop and manufacture a COVID-19 vaccine that is reportedly cheaper than the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines. The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine can also be stored in a normal fridge, making it easier to transport and use, compared to the other two vaccines that required much lower temperatures for storage and transportation.