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stamping out disease
GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceuticals company, dedicates a significant amount of
resources to efforts to eliminate a crippling condition that afflicts millions of people
in developing countries – building public-private partnerships along the way
When Mimoungou Haruna’s leg first started swel ing, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK). Albendazole was original y he was concerned. By the time it had swol en to wel developed as a de-worming agent for animals, but it over twice its normal size, he was justifiably horrified.
was also found to be effective against the parasites No longer able to work, he now relies on family and that carry LF in humans. When taken with another drug, albendazole was shown to stop the transmission cycle The incapacitating symptoms first appeared two decades ago, and Haruna, now 70 years old, had no In 1997 the World Health Assembly passed a idea what caused them. He went to the traditional resolution to eliminate the disease. It chose 2020 as a healer, but the swel ing continued. The words target date. ‘We were looking for something in keeping ‘lymphatic filariasis’(LF) had never reached his rural with our corporate mission as a health company,’says corner of Burkina Faso in west Africa. Only when Minne Iwamoto, manager of GSK’s LF programme.
officials from the Ministry of Health visited his vil age to ‘Eliminating LF was an issue where we could make a raise public awareness of the disease did he learn the difference to mil ions of people – a tangible difference in some of the world’s poorest communities.’ Around 120 mil ion people suffer from LF, which, as in the case of Haruna, can lead to elephantiasis and subsequent grotesque swel ing. Over a bil ion more are programme of its drug. That was back in 1998. Almost at risk of contracting the disease, which is transmitted ten years later, the company has given away 700 by mosquitoes. Highest on the danger list are those mil ion albendazole treatments free of charge. In 2006 living in the tropical regions of Africa and South Asia.
alone it donated 155 mil ion tablets, which calculated The bad news is that there is no known cure for those according to the wholesale average cost was worth already infected. The good news, however, is that a major programme is underway to eliminate the The main beneficiaries of the LF programme are the disease. This uses two prescription medicines given drug recipients themselves. Each needs treatments once a year, for five years, to those living in endemic over five years, and an estimated 140 mil ion people have been treated so far, a third of whom are children.
One of the required drugs, albendazole, is made by For communities that complete the five-year the international pharmaceuticals company programme, the chances of eliminating LF are high. ■ lymphatic filariasis, a
debilitating disease that
affects 120 million people,
mainly in Africa and the
Americas, can lead to

As wel as the health benefits, the programme also the company
means there are fewer people, such as Haruna, who are GlaxoSmithKline is a £23bil ion ($11.5bn) turnover out of work because of LF. This has the knock-on pharmaceuticals company that employs around economic benefit of a more productive workforce for 100,000 people in more than 116 countries. Its core activity is developing and launching new medicines and GSK also stands to benefit. Iwamoto points out that vaccines, and it spends nearly £400,000 an hour on enhancing the company’s global reputation and reaffirming its mission statement (‘Do more, feel better, ■ is pursuing 14 clinical research and development live longer’) represent two clear outcomes from its programmes for medicines and vaccines against involvement. The company’s flagship LF programme nine diseases that are particularly relevant to the complements its other disease prevention initiatives, which include fighting the spread of malaria and HIV.
■ donated £22 mil ion ($41m) worth of life-saving With a social spend valued at £302mil ion last year, antibiotics and other medicines in 2006 to support equivalent to almost four per cent of pre-tax profits, the company donates wel above the one per cent of pre- ■ has signed an agreement with the Russian tax profits to which many companies aspire. government to supply anti-retroviral medicines, But it’s not just GSK’s external reputation that’s at which tackle HIV/Aids, at discounted prices.
stake. ‘Employees want to work for a company thatconcerns itself with more than just profit, and thecompany’s commitment to lymphatic filariasis is good £1m a year into the Al iance’s work on the ground. The for employee morale,’says Iwamoto. GSK’s efforts to money supports rol -out and management of the LF stamp out LF, in other words, increase its standing in programme, through activities such as technical David Molyneux, director of the LF support centre ‘employees
and professor of tropical health science at Liverpool University’s School of Tropical Medicine, says: ‘GSK has work for a
shown the desire to make a large scale public-private partnership like this real y work. It’s stuck in through thick and thin and now the public health successes are that concerns
itself with
Although it’s a decade since the fight against LF began, the project is stil in its early days. Each more than
participating country must go through at least five just profit’
years of mass drug administration – a process that only donation programmes play in building an awareness of around half a dozen countries have so far completed. In GSK’s position as a leading manufacturer of medicines the case of Haruna it’s too late, although the medical and vaccines. Its product list covers everything from assistance he’s received through the programme has cancer and diabetes treatments to polio and whooping stabilized his condition. But for mil ions of others, there’s real hope that the end of this crippling disease GSK is not alone in its fight against LF. From the start, the company has always looked for other organizationswith whom to partner. Working with the World Health ■ Further information: Organisation, GSK was instrumental in creating aworldwide coalition of health ministries, non-profitgroups and other corporate partners. Established in 2000, the Global Al iance to Eliminate LF now has more GLAXOSMITHKLINE
than 120 member organizations, including Merck, Many people are unaware of the disease lymphatic filariasis (LF), knowing only another large pharmaceuticals company. In each of the of the other mosquito-borne disease, malaria. The latter has more support, so it countries involved, the lead is taken by the local is reassuring that GSK has focused on LF, recognizing the devastation it causes, ministry of health, with technical and financial especial y as it has no known cure. Importantly, the company has not just assistance provided by the other Al iance members.
donated drugs but helped in a practical way to build partnerships to ensure a Participating in a public-private partnership of this stable environment for the treatment over five years. This is almost more size is not easy, and represents one of the ongoing noteworthy than the donations, as it is building local capacity.
chal enges for GSK, according to Iwamoto. ‘Having acommon goal is essential for this kind of partnership to Features that impress are:
work,’she says. ‘It’s also key that from the start ■ the holistic approach of giving aid to support management development of everyone has a clear idea of what their particular roles ■ the project reinforces GSK’s corporate mission as a health company and While donating albendazole is GSK’s main boosts employee morale by showing it is about more than just profit contribution to the Al iance, it also uses its global ■ the sheer size of GSK’s social spend at almost four per cent of pre-tax profits.
presence and contacts to get more participants andfunders on board. In addition, GSK puts approximately PHILIPPA FOSTER BACK OBE, INSTITUTE OF BUSINESS ETHICS issue 11 | ETHICALPERFORMANCE BESTPRACTICE 11●


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