Dr Agnès Saint Raymond, the European Medicines Agency’s Head of Human Medicines Special Areas has been asked to become a member of the United Nations Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children.
This follows her recent work with the World Health Organization (WHO) on the international network on paediatric medicines, and her responsibilities on paediatric medicines at European Union (EU) level.
The high-level Commission was launched by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), to improve access to essential but overlooked medicines and health supplies that could save the lives of millions of women and children every year.
The Agency congratulates Dr Saint Raymond on this appointment, which allows her to bring her experience as a paediatrician and the Agency’s lead in the area of medicines for children to the work of the commission. Dr Saint Raymond will carry out her work with the Commission in addition to her role at the Agency.
More than five million children under the age of five years die every year of potentially curable diseases, such as pneumonia, diarrhoea, neonatal sepsis and malaria.
Research shows that increasing coverage of proven, inexpensive interventions, such as antibiotics for pneumonia, and oral rehydration solution and zinc for diarrhoea, can reduce childhood deaths from these two most common illnesses by more than 70%.
Similarly, obstetric bleeding, the leading cause of maternal death around the world, results in an estimated 127,000 deaths annually, many of which could be prevented with life-saving medicines.
Recent experience with vaccines, HIV/AIDS medicines and malaria programmes also shows that it is possible to reduce the obstacles that result in under-utilisation of health supplies, even in the most disadvantaged communities.
The Commission will work towards increasing the availability, affordability, accessibility and rational use of medicines and health supplies that can reduce the main causes of child and maternal death by:
- identifying opportunities to increase the production and supply of affordable, high-quality, high-impact commodities for women’s and children’s health. This includes through shaping the market, strengthening the quality of local production capacity, promoting innovative technologies and new product development, strengthening regulatory frameworks, supporting effective supply chain mechanisms, and enhancing innovative financing mechanisms at global and local levels;
- proposing innovative strategies to support high-burden countries in increasing access to overlooked commodities through proven private- and public-sector market-shaping interventions;
- recommending strategies to raise awareness of and demand for these lifesaving products among healthcare providers and end-users.
This Commission is expected to work on these objectives from now until May 2012.
It is part of the Every Woman Every Child movement, which aims to save the lives of 16 million of the most vulnerable women and children worldwide by 2015.