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Novartis to expand SMS for Life approach across Africa

Will broaden reach of mobile-based medicines management programme 

mHealth mobile phoneNovartis is planning to expand its SMS for Life antimalarial stock management programme into more African countries and additional medicines.

The programme, which began in Tanzania in 2009, currently uses mobile phones and electronic mapping to help eliminate 'stock-outs' of malaria medicines.

SMS for Life now reaches all 5,000 public health facilities across Tanzania, where the programme has also added the tracking of medicines for tuberculosis and leprosy.

Now Novartis says it will this year launch similar programmes, ones that will include other medicines and diagnostic tests, in Ghana, Kenya and Cameroon.

In Ghana, following a successful pilot in six districts, sponsored by the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH), Novartis is working with the Ghana Health Service on planning a full country scale-up.

In Kenya, another successful and extensive pilot has been completed and Novartis is working with the National Malaria Control Program (NMCP) on a plan for a full country scale-up.

In Cameroon, with support from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), Novartis and its partners are in the planning phase for a full country scale-up of malaria medicine tracking, in addition to collecting patient surveillance data on the use of rapid diagnostic tests.

The programme works by sending workers in registered health facilities a weekly SMS message asking for their supply levels. They can respond via a free text message, with reminders sent if they don't, and the following week the medical district officer receives a consolidated report, allowing them to make new orders or redistribute medicine between facilities within days rather than months.

In Tanzania, stock-outs of antimalarial treatment (Novartis' fixed-dose artemisinin-based combination therapy, or ACT, and quinine injectables) dropped from 79 per cent to less than 26 per cent in 2010 following the programme's debut, and the number of facilities that had no form of the Novartis ACT fell from 26 per cent to less than 1 per cent.

The programme is run as a public-private partnership and sponsored by charity Roll Back Malaria, with assistance from IBM, Google and Vodafone.

The same telecoms company is also involved in another big pharma SMS-based mHealth project in Africa, working this time with GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) to help increase childhood vaccination rates in Mozambique.

Launched in December, this initiative will see GSK and Vodafone provide healthcare workers with smartphones to improve record keeping and enable better management of vaccine stock, while mothers will be encouraged via SMS to take up vaccination services.

27th February 2013

From: Healthcare

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