Govt to Supply Rural Communities With Antivenom to Reach Farmers

By Moe Moe 16 October 2018

NAYPYITAW — Snake antivenom will be supplied to more than 1,700 rural health care centers starting next year, the Ministry of Health and Sports has announced.

The ministry said it would buy the medicine from the state-owned Burma Pharmaceutical Industry (BPI), under the management of the Ministry of Industry, at a price well below the cost of production.

“We will make sure 1,760 rural health care centers have easy access to antivenom as farmers are the most vulnerable to snake bites in the country,” BPI Managing Director U Ko Ko Aung told reporters during a workshop on Myanmar’s antivenom projects in Naypyitaw on Monday.

He said there were around 10,000 cobra and viper bites in Myanmar every year, most of them in rural areas. But antivenom currently is supplied only to township hospitals in urban centers. Getting the medicine to rural areas could help save lives.

The Ministry of Health and Sports will train health assistants in rural areas on how to administer the antivenom.

“Previously only a liquid form of antivenom could be produced. But now a freeze-dried form can be produced with modern equipment,” said U Kyaw Kan Kaung, director of the Public Health Department.

The Ministry of Industry will sell 20-ml bottles of liquid antivenom for 38,000 kyats ($23.91) each and the freeze-dried form for 48,000 kyats ($30.20), said U Ko Ko Aung.

“This will significantly reduce the number of deaths caused by snake bites,” U Myint Ko, a health assistant in Amatkyee Kone Village, in Bago Region’s Yedashe Township, told The Irrawaddy.

Since the government started supplying township public hospitals with antivenom, the number of deaths from snake bites has fallen sharply. Most deaths from bites today are attributed to the use of pseudo-medical treatment based on superstition.

“Previously snake bites were quite common. But these days more and more people wear long boots, and there have been fewer victims,” said U Win Myint, a farmer in Yedashe Township’s Khin Tan village.

BPI produced more than 120,000 units of antivenom in 2017 and plans to produce 130,000 units this year.

Established in 1957, BPI produces some 200 medical products in various forms, including capsules, tablets and vaccines. The company started manufacturing 11 new products during the previous fiscal year and had a total output worth 39 billion kyats ($24.59 million).

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.