Bayer to supply WHO with drug for African sleeping sickness

Over a period of five years, Bayer Schering Pharma will supply the World Health Organization (WHO) with 400,000 tablets a year of its drug Lampit for the treatment of African sleeping sickness.

The drug, containing the active ingredient nifurtimox for use in eflornithine-nifurtimox combination therapy, is effective in the later treatment of the disease. WHO has added the combination therapy to its list of essential drugs.

The chronic form of African sleeping sickness, widespread especially in central and west Africa, typically manifests itself until months or even years after infection. Typical symptoms include confusion, sensory disturbances, coordination problems, disturbances of the sleep-waking rhythm, and apathy.

Half a million people suffer from this disease in tropical Africa which claims up to 70,000 lives every year. The pathogens are parasites called trypanosoma, transmitted in the saliva of the tsetse fly when it bites humans.

"Combination therapy is an important new approach in the fight against African sleeping sickness. The collaboration with the WHO makes sure that this treatment really reaches the people affected," said Andreas Fibig, chairman of the board of management of Bayer Schering Pharma AG.

The acute form of the disease, prevalent mainly in eastern and southern Africa, develops much more quickly. The first symptoms already appear within a few weeks: fever attacks, headaches, pains in the joints, swelling of the lymph nodes, and itching. Both forms of the disease are lethal if left untreated.

Bayer Schering Pharma has been collaborating with the WHO since 2002 by supplying a drug with the active ingredient suramin for the monotherapy of an earlier stage of sleeping sickness.