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Biogen, Sobi to Donate Hemophilia Drugs to Developing Nations

Update Date: May 12, 2014 09:26 AM EDT

Drug company Biogen Idec Inc. and its partner, Swedish Orphan Biovitrum AB, announced on Monday that they plan on donating hemophilia drugs to poor, developing nations. According to the statement, Biogen and Sobi will give away one billion international units (iu) of clotting factor drugs, which can be used to treat tens of thousands of patients over the next 10 years.

"We wanted to do something significant that would change and really shift the way donation programs in that field will work," said John Cox, Biogen's head of manufacturing and supply.

The drugs will mostly be used in Africa, Asia and other regions of the world as emergency treatment instead of preventive care. The donation will be divided in half. In the first five years, the company will give up to 500 million units. After the five-year mark, the remaining 500 million units will become available for distribution again. The amount of drugs the companies are donating can treat over 75,000 cases of joint bleeding episodes and over 2,000 life-threatening bleeds.

Hemphilia is an inherited disease that mostly affects boys and men. The disorder prevents blood from clotting properly, which can lead to uncontrollable bleeding and joint damage.

Currently, around 75 percent of the 400,000 people who suffer from hemophilia throughout the world are from poorer nations and do not have access to these drugs.

"When they do live, they have a miserable life," Dr. David Kuter, chief of hematology at Massachusetts General Hospital reported by the Boston Globe. "They have bleeds that immobilize them."

Without these drugs, the majority of the patients will not survive into adulthood. Biogen and Sobi's donation, which was announced at the World Federation of Hemophilia (WFH) meeting in Melbourne, Australia, could save a lot of lives.

"WFH do their work in countries that consume less than 1 iu per capita. That's a level below which people are dying, where they don't even have enough to treat the life-threatening bleeds," Paula Cobb, Biogen's head of hematology, said according to Reuters.

The first batch of drugs will be shipped in 2015. So far, the companies have not revealed which countries will receive the drugs first.

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