JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, March 24 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- In Johannesburg today, South African Health Minister Dr. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and sanofi-aventis Chairman and CEO Jean-Francois Dehecq inaugurated the first training center in support for patients receiving treatment for tuberculosis.
The center for treatment support and direct observation, based on the DOTS (Directly Observed Therapy) principle, is located in Gauteng province and is the fourth of a total of nine monitoring centers that will eventually be set up in South Africa.
The 9 centers are part of the TB FREE (Tuberculosis Free) program, developed jointly by the Aventis Foundation, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the South African Department of Health. Three other centers have already been completed: in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal province, in Klerksdorp, North West province and in Kimberley, Northern Cape province.
The TB FREE project, which is designed to treat tuberculosis sufferers more efficiently, was set up in 2002 through a five-year agreement. The cost of the program, financed by the sanofi-aventis Group through the Aventis Foundation, is 15 million dollars.
In his inaugural address, the sanofi-aventis Chairman stressed the Group's commitment to fighting tuberculosis and underlined the model value of the program launched in South Africa. "Training in the monitoring and observation of patient compliance with drug regimens will help to optimize the efficacy of treatment for this disease," he said. "This partnership with South Africa's health authorities demonstrates the importance sanofi-aventis places on being a real partner in public health," he added.
Mr. Dehecq moved on from the DOTS program to discuss the Group's global strategy for access to medicines, designed to provide drugs for the treatment of malaria, leishmaniasis, sleeping sickness and, of course, tuberculosis, at the lowest possible prices.
Tuberculosis, caused by infection with Koch's bacillus, was once on the decline but has recently resurfaced as a major threat not only because it is often associated with HIV/AIDS co-infection, but also because resources for combating and preventing the disease have been compromised.
Some 15 to 20 million people around the world are currently suffering from tuberculosis and 9 million new cases are diagnosed every year. The disease kills two million people a year. Only 5 to 6 million sufferers receive effective treatment.
In South Africa, around 500,000 people are infected with tuberculosis; every day, 37 people die of the disease.
The course of treatment for tuberculosis lasts 6 months, and consists of a combination of antibiotics based on rifampicin. The real challenge is to make sure that patients comply with their treatment, which is why the WHO recommends directly observed treatment of patients - a strategy known as DOTS (Directly Observed Therapy).
TB FREE Program
The aims of the TB Free program are:
* to establish 9 centers of excellence in the 9 provinces of South
* to introduce mobile units attached to each center of excellence in
order to reach isolated areas of the country
* to raise awareness of the importance of detecting and treating
* recruiting and training large numbers of DOTS supporters to encourage
the whole population to undergo systematic screening for tuberculosis.
The target for the five-year program is to train 100,000 DOTS supporters to provide advice and support to TB and/or HIV patients and ensure proper compliance with treatment. So far 1,500 DOTS supporters have received training.
The sanofi-aventis Group is the world's 3rd largest pharmaceutical company, ranking number 1 in Europe. Backed by a world-class R&D organization, sanofi-aventis is developing leading positions in seven major therapeutic areas: cardiovascular, thrombosis, oncology, metabolic disorders, central nervous system, internal medicine and vaccines. Sanofi-aventis is listed in Paris (EURONEXT: SAN) and in New York .
In South Africa, sanofi-aventis ranks as the leading foreign pharmaceutical company and the third largest pharmaceutical company overall in the country, with a market share of 7.5% and 2004 net sales of 109 million euros.
The sanofi-aventis Group conducts business in the U.S. through its affiliates Sanofi-Synthelabo Inc. and Aventis Pharmaceuticals Inc.
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