New Delhi/Patna, September 5, 2014: Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) welcomes the Government of India’s initiative to adopt Single Dose Liposomal Amphotericin B (LAmB) as a first line drug for treating kala azar (Visceral Leishmaniasis – VL) in Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal – the most endemic states in India.
The announcement made by the Hon’ble Minister of Health and Family Welfare, Dr. Harsh Vardhan in Patna on Tuesday paves the way for providing safer treatment for kala azar and to achieve elimination by reducing the annual incidence to less than 1 case per 10,000 at the block level.
Transmitted by the bite of a sand fly, kala azar is a vector-borne disease, endemic in 76 countries around the world. Typically, the disease thrives in impoverished areas and is almost always fatal, if left untreated. In India, Bihar is the epicentre of kala azar where 33 out of 38 districts are affected. The population at risk is nearly 34.65 million in approximately 11,500 villages spread over 429 blocks.
With support from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme (NVBDCP), Rajendra Memorial Research Institute (RMRI) and other partners, MSF will support the government to implement the new treatment protocol of administering single dose (10mg/kg) LAmB as a first line drug to patients diagnosed with kala azar.
The use of single dose LAmB is a shift from the previous treatment protocol of Miltefosine to treat kala azar patients, administered over a period of 28 days, thus requiring strict adherence. Single dose LAmB on the other hand, is an intravenous infusion given to patients over a two-hour period. This makes LAmB a more patient-friendly drug that can be given to all categories of patients, including pregnant women and young children.
Beginning today, MSF will train government doctors and A-grade nurses from 33 districts in Bihar at the Sadar Hospital in Hajipur, Vaishali district. This training of trainers (TOT) will be conducted on September 6th, 8th, 9th and 10th respectively.
MSF has been on the frontline against kala azar in Bihar and has treated more than 11,000 patients. It wholeheartedly extends its support to the MoHFW, NVBDCP and the State Health Society in this drive to eliminate kala azar, and contribute to improving the health status of vulnerable communities and at-risk population living in the endemic areas in India.
Notes to the editor:
· Since July 2007, MSF has treated over 11,000 kala azar patients in Bihar. Currently MSF supports a 50-bed kala azar ward inside the Sadar District Hospital in Hajipur, and five primary health centres (PHCs) in Goraul, Vaishali, Mahua, Mahnar and Raghapour in neighbouring blocks. – See more at: /access-kala-azar-treatment-public-healthcare-system-must-be-scaled#sthash.OjgaPycd.dpuf
· Kala azar disproportionately affects the poorest, most vulnerable communities in Bihar and is transmitted by the bite of a sand fly. The disease usually occurs in villages where houses have mud walls and earthen floors, and cattle and other livestock are kept close to human dwellings. – See more at: /access-kala-azar-treatment-public-healthcare-system-must-be-scaled#sthash.OjgaPycd.dpuf
About MSF in India
MSF is an international, independent, medical humanitarian organization that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, exclusion from healthcare and natural disasters. MSF is working in India since 1999 and is providing medical treatment to thousands of patients in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Manipur and Telangana.
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Pujya Pascal, Advocacy Coordinator
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It is to be noted that Miltefosine cannot be given to pregnant women and young children. In women of child bearing age Miltefosine should not be prescribed unless contraception is ensured during the treatment and two months after the treatment. In women suffering from PKDL, this period is extended to 5 months.