Key Snake Anti-Venom Is Running Out, Doctors Without Borders Warns

We’re about to run out of Fav-Afrique, the most effective anti-venom for snakebites in sub-Saharan Africa, Doctors Without Borders warned on Monday. This could imperil the lives of the 1.5 million people who are bitten by a snake in the region every year.

Fav-Afrique has been the anti-venom of choice for the 10 potentially deadly snakebites for years, but it’s very expensive. A course of treatment can cost up to $500 — more than the average annual income in some sub-Saharan African countries. Governments and NGOs subsidized the treatment, but that wasn’t enough to make producing Fav-Afrique profitable, the company behind the anti-venom, Sanofi Pasteur, told the AP.

That’s why Sanofi Pasteur announced in 2010 that they would be ceasing production of Fav-Afrique in 2014. They did — and now the stock of the drug is set to expire in June 2016.

“We are now facing a real crisis, so why do governments, pharmaceutical companies and global health bodies walk away when we need them most?” Gabriel Alcoba, a snakebite expert affiliated with Doctors Without Borders, said in a statement.

Snake anti-venom is notoriously difficult and expensive to produce. To make it, pharmaceutical companies give venom, milked from poisonous snakes, to large mammals such as sheep and horses, then extract the animal’s blood and refine out antibodies to the venom. Though Sanofi is negotiating with another company to take over production of Fav-Afrique, the soonest the other company could start doing so is 2018.

Until then, there are a few alternatives, renowned snakebite expert Dr. Sean Bush of East Carolina Univeristy told The Huffington Post. Several other companies produce anti-venoms for bites from snakes in sub-Saharan Africa that are less effective, and more prone to causing allergic reactions, than Fav-Afrique. Bush also —> Read More