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World Heart Federation Statement on global shortage of BPG at WHO Executive Board

16 February 2016
Alastair White (centre) speaking about BPG at the WHO.

Founding member of RHD Action, the World Heart Federation, made a statement on the global shortage of Benzathine Penicillin G at the 138th Session of the World Health Organization Executive Board meeting, held from 25-30 January at WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland.

The statement was delivered by Alastair White from the WHF, and was made in response to the WHO Secretariat report on ‘Addressing the global shortages of medicines, and the safety and accessibility of children’s medication’. The report, which references the global shortage of BPG, lists common causes of stock-outs, and suggests strategic options to prevent shortages.

BPG is the essential antibiotic for secondary prophylaxis of rheumatic fever, and has been present on the WHO Essential Medicines List since the first edition in 1977. However last year shortages of BPG and market failure combined to cause stock-outs worldwide, including in South Africa, Brazil, Cambodia and Timor-Leste. Missing even a single dose of BPG raises the risk of recurrent rheumatic fever, therefore a stable supply is vital in order for RF and RHD programs to succeed.

The WHF statement suggested three steps to be taken in order to secure and deliver a high-quality supply of BPG:

  • Member states should collate and share national data on the need for BPG to treat rheumatic heart disease, syphilis and other diseases;
  • Work with the pharmaceutical industry to increase manufacturing capacity to produce a consistent supply of BPG;
  • Encourage countries with a high burden of RHD to translate recommended dose formulations of BPG from WHO EML to national EMLs.

The World Heart Federation and RHD Action look forward to working with the global health community to ensure the accessibility and affordability of medicines and to prevent future shortages.